ATCO moves up time­line for coal phase­out

The Drumheller Mail - - NEWS - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail

ATCO Power may be mov­ing away from coal sooner rather than later, and that could have an ef­fect on the Sheer­ness power gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties near Hanna.

Ac­cord­ing to a Na­tional Post story pub­lished May 10, ATCO pres­i­dent and CEO Nancy South­ern, in­di­cated they are look­ing at “green­ing” its coal-fired power plants by 2020, far ahead of the Al­berta gov­ern­ment’s plan of phas­ing out coal by 2030.

“Our be­lief is that it makes sense to move to gasi­fi­ca­tion of those coal plants now,” South­ern is quoted in the story.

Hanna Mayor Chris War­wick says he has not had con­fir­ma­tion of the plans in Hanna, although he has heard this is in the works.

“What it means is we can plan bet­ter be­cause we do have some time­lines. I would be ex­tremely sur­prised if they don’t con­vert this or build new, or a com­bi­na­tion of both be­cause you can’t shut all this coal down be­cause we don’t have enough en­ergy to fill that void.”

There are some dif­fer­ences in op­er­a­tions when they are con­verted. He ex­plains that en­ergy out­put could be lower with nat­u­ral gas, how­ever, in a coal op­er­a­tion, a por­tion of the power goes to­wards op­er­at­ing the plant.

“From what I am told the net re­sult is close just by chang­ing the burn­ers out,” he said, adding the site is well suited with a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line in close prox­im­ity to the site.

While he sees there are pos­i­tive as­pects to con­vert­ing the plant, it will not bring with it the same level of staffing as the cur­rent op­er­a­tions. “West­mor­land Coal Com­pany has around 100 em­ploy­ees and ATCO has around 100, but there are about 20-30 jobs on the ATCO side that are ded­i­cated to the coal por­tion of it. You need peo­ple to run the crush­ers and con­vey­ors,” he said. “So there is a net loss of 120-130 peo­ple. “

“At least if they re­tool, our wa­ter sup­ply is so­lid­i­fied and my un­der­stand­ing is even when the mine is shut down, the are sev­eral years of recla­ma­tion work to put the land back to the way it was. So there is still work to be had.”

He sees the devel­op­ment as both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive. The most pos­i­tive is that it ap­pears that con­ver­sion is a real pos­si­bil­ity.

“It is pos­i­tive in the fact that now we know when it is hap­pen­ing. It is neg­a­tive in that it is ear­lier than I an­tic­i­pated,” he said. “From our point of view, it puts a lit­tle pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to start rolling out what the com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages are go­ing to be for the coal af­fected com­mu­ni­ties. They are reach­ing out to us and we have good com­mu­ni­ca­tion so that is a good sign.”

Chris War­wick Hanna Mayor

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