Alberta’s electricity system is still dominated by coal-fired power plants.
The plants are a major source of carbon pollution and toxic air contaminants including mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter. The health costs — asthma episodes, emergency visits for respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, hospital admissions and chronic exposures resulting in premature deaths — associated with burning coal for electricity in the province are at least $300 million annually, according to a number of estimates.
A greener grid
The Pembina Institute is focused on the push toward a greener electricity grid in Alberta. Achieving this goal requires:
- phasing out coal-fired electricity generation ahead of schedule
- creating a renewable energy policy framework to encourage a greater mix of renewable energy generation
- adopting a limited, appropriate and interim role for natural gas without locking into continued, long-term fossil fuel reliance
The faster we begin a deliberate transition away from over-reliance on fossil fuels, the sooner Albertans will benefit from cleaner air, improved health, a more resilient energy system and, ultimately, less pressure on consumers’ electricity bills.
Coal-fired power plants are being closed in the United States and Canada. Ontario’s early closure of its coal-fired power plants is the most effective climate action that any government has taken to date in North America. With the need for new generation sources by 2020 and with prices for fossil fuel electricity predicted to increase over the next decades, now is the time to shift our power grid to greener sources.
Time to act
The province first received recommendations from a multi-stakeholder group of industry and environmental organizations to develop a renewable energy framework in 2007. More than seven years on, we’ve seen fits and starts from the province, but little action. However, as part of the road to international climate talks in Paris, Alberta is investigating a renewable energy policy in 2015, and the Pembina Institute is working with the province to make this policy as effective as possible.
Pembina has a long record of research and analysis on developing cleaner electricity generation such as our influential collaborative work in 2014 called Power to Change and our 2013 report on health impacts from coal-fired power, Costly Diagnosis.
With our deep understanding of the electricity system in Alberta, we are uniquely placed to develop and assess policies and programs to advance Albertans' opportunity to invest in their own distributed solar energy installations. We have also helped stakeholders to better understand the interactions between rural landowners and wind energy development.