Progress from Coal to CleanComparing Canadian electric utilities’ approaches to energy transition

Publication - Dec. 2, 2021 - By Grace Brown, Kaitlin Olmsted, Binnu Jeyakumar

Canadian coal-operating utilities have come a long way in reducing their reliance on coal power. Ontario Power Generation set the stage for phasing out coal when it completed its off-coal transition in 2014. Since then, utilities in Alberta have made the quickest transition, and will completely phase out coal-fired electricity by 2023. Utilities in other provinces are on varying trajectories toward coal phase-out and greater and more rapid deployment of renewable energy and storage technologies.

This report charts the progress made by utilities in Canada’s four remaining coal-burning provinces, explains in detail the indicators used to evaluate utility transition approaches, provides data collection methodology, and presents a narrative of the differing approaches utilities are taking to complete this energy transition. Recognizing the rapid pace of advancements in this area, we will continue to refine the metrics and update the information.

Overall, rapid, country-wide decarbonization of the electricity sector is critical to achieving Canada’s net-zero emissions targets. Nova Scotia Power, SaskPower, TransAlta, and Capital Power have adopted net-zero by 2050 plans, but these timelines fall short of Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero electricity sector emissions by 2035.

While New Brunswick and Nova Scotia now have mandates to retire coal by 2030, their respective utilities have yet to finalize plans to meet these mandates. Nova Scotia Power's capital expenditure plan reflecting a 2030 coal phase-out is currently under review.

While utilities in Alberta have made the most progress in Canada in accelerating the phase-out of coal, they are replacing most of that energy source with natural gas, which also generates greenhouse gas emissions. To avoid the climate and stranded asset risks, utilities must invest in clean energy technologies such as renewables, storage, energy efficiency, and carbon capture.

From Coal to Clean - ReportThis report is a companion piece to our report From Coal to Clean, which charts Canada's progress in phasing out coal. Taking stock of the current plans in the remaining coal-burning provinces, From Coal to Clean acknowledges recent provincial progress in policies and plans, and identifies opportunities for improvement.

Coal scorecard for utilities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia


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