By Tim Brown, ReutersThe federal government on Monday announced it will replace all coal-burning power plants with new coal-powered plants to meet a federal mandate that would cut emissions of greenhouse gases from Canada’s coal-dependent industry.
The move is a step toward the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the industry by 30 per cent by 2025.
In addition to the coal-to-liquids plant, Canada’s government said it will also replace existing coal-burner plants, which burn coal-based fuel and produce heat for industrial, commercial and residential use, with new plants that burn natural gas.
The new plants will be built by Canadian Coal Inc., a Canadian-owned company, and are expected to be operational by the end of 2020.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement the government will “rebalance the economy to support a sustainable economy that delivers economic growth and sustainable security for Canadians.”
“This shift to natural gas is not only an important step forward, but is a win-win for the environment, the Canadian economy, and our communities,” the spokesman said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with the governors of British Columbia and Ontario, and Canadian Coal Corp. executives, at a news conference in Montreal, Quebec, January 30, 2020.
(Photo: Eric S-Kreutzmann/Reuters)The government is also seeking private sector investment of $6 billion, including $1 billion in infrastructure investment, to help build new plants.
Canadian Coal Inc. said in January it expects to receive $2 billion in government support over the next three years.
The government has also pledged $6.5 billion in stimulus spending for the province of British British Columbia, the second-largest Canadian coal producer.
Trudeau said in February he was confident the province could meet its target of cutting emissions by 30 to 40 per cent of 2005 levels by 2025 without new power plants, but that he also believes the province needs to continue to work with industry and other stakeholders to develop a sustainable electricity future.
A recent study by the Royal Society of Canada found that the Canadian coal industry could be facing a severe economic downturn if more new coal plants are built.
It also said there are already plans for new plants at a site near Edmonton, Alberta, that have already been approved.
Trinity College economist Chris Zuker, who co-authored the report, said in an interview that the coal industry’s current reliance on coal is unsustainable.
“We need to be more flexible and more efficient in terms of what we are doing with the carbon dioxide, which is a finite resource,” Zukor said.
Zukor also said that the new plants would help alleviate the pressure on the country’s coal reserves, and that if Canada wants to avoid the kind of energy crisis that has rocked other major economies in recent years, it should consider investing in other fossil fuel-burning technologies.
“What we have to do is find ways to reduce emissions in a way that is economically viable and that is environmentally sustainable,” Zauzer said.