Alberta will phase out all pollution created by burning coal and transition to more renewable energy and natural gas generation by 2030, according to the province’s Climate Leadership Plan, announced on Sunday.
The report states that two-thirds of coal-generated electricity will be replaced by renewables – primarily wind power – while natural gas generation will continue to provide “firm base load reliability.” By 2030, renewable energy sources will comprise up to 30% of Alberta’s electricity production, Alberta Environment and Parks said in a press release.
“Right now, 55 per cent of Alberta’s electicity is generated by coal, and coal pollution causes respiratory illness in more people than any other way of generating energy,” said Alberta’s Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman. “It’s time for Alberta to move to cleaner sources of electricity, and that’s what we’re going to do by reaching zero coal emissions.”
Besides transitioning from coal to renewable electricity sources, the plan also puts a price on carbon pollution for everyone and sets emissions limits for the oilsands. Other measures include broad programs to improve energy efficiency, support green technological innovations, reduce methane and provide supports to ensure that families and small businesses are protected, the release said.
The plan is based on the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Panel, led by Dr. Andrew Leach, which heard from thousands of individual Albertans and stakeholder groups this fall. Over 900 people attended public information sessions and the panel received over 500 submissions.
Noting that the oil and gas and oilsands sectors combined account for nearly 50% of Alberta’s emissions, the government said that it will legislate an overall oilsands emissions limit of 100 megatonnes (Mt), with provisions for new upgrading and co-generation.
The report also noted that the oil and gas industry is also the largest source of methane emissions in Alberta, responsible for 70% of total provincial methane emissions in 2013. The panel recommended that the government set an initial methane-specific target of a 12 Mt CO2 equivalent reduction in methane emissions by 2030 (a 40% reduction from 2013 levels) and consulted with the proposed multi-stakeholder initiative to confirm this target by the end of 2016.
The report added that a price on carbon provides an incentive for everyone to reduce greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change. Alberta will phase in this carbon pricing in two steps: $20/tonne economy-wide in January 2017 and $30/tonne economy-wide in January 2018. “This combined approach to carbon pricing and methane management in oil and gas is expected to yield significant emissions reductions in oil and gas in Alberta – approximately 12 Mt of emissions reductions below what would be expected under the status quo by 2020 and 20 Mt below status quo policies by 2030,” the report said. “This would still imply expected growth in oil and gas emissions in the province of 55% above 2005 levels by 2030.”
One hundred per cent of proceeds from carbon pricing will be reinvested in Alberta. A portion of collected revenues will be invested directly into measures to reduce pollution, including clean energy research and technology; green infrastructure, such as public transit; and programs to help Albertans reduce their energy use. Other revenues will be invested in an adjustment fund that will help individuals and families make ends meet; provide transition support to small businesses, First Nations, and people working in affected coal facilities.
“We are going to do our part to address one of the world’s greatest problems,” said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in the release. “We are going to put capital to work, investing in new technologies, better efficiency, and job-creating investments in green infrastructure. We are going to write a made-in-Alberta policy that works for our province and our industries, and keeps our capital here in Alberta.”