The Notley Government’s anti-coal doctrine
As the Notley government deliberately knocks a dozen or more of Alberta’s coalfired electrical plants out of business, it’s worth remembering a few facts about the industry. Globally, about a third of all energy and 40 per cent of the world’s electricity comes from coal.
While Alberta is closing down 5,800 megawatts of reliable and low-cost coal-fired electricity, China is adding nearly ten times that amount (52,000 megawatts) of new coal plants on an annual basis. And the Chinese grid already produces a million megawatts using coal. Japan recently announced that it is going ahead with 45 new coal fired electrical plants. And it’s ironic, that since the Notley government shut down our low-cost coal-fired electricity, there are times when Alberta is now buying coal-fired electricity from Montana to meet the needs of our provincial grid.
About 80 per cent of China’s electricity comes from coal and in India the number is nearly the same. Pakistan is spending $35 billion from China, to build 9.5 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity. (Canadians might also be interested to know that when it comes to shipping coal, North America’s biggest coal exporting port is not in Virginia or North Carolina, it’s Vancouver, BC.)
About 44 per cent of Germany’s electrical needs comes from coal, and Germany mostly burns dirty lignite coal, which it has in abundance. The Americans are committed to expansion of coal, in instances where low-cost natural gas might not be available or viable. Ontario’s anti-coal policy under successive Liberal governments has been a financial disaster, driving away tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs due to runaway electricity prices, and creating what is known by many as energy poverty—a situation where thousands of citizens are forced to choose between buying food or buying high cost electricity.
Alberta holds about 70 per cent of Canada’s coal reserves. And our coal is generally low in sulphur—it’s cleaner than many other types. Additionally, all Alberta’s coalfired plants use what’s called pulverizing technology, which ensures a full and complete burn. And, Alberta has some of the world’s most advanced pollution control technology. Alberta has two supercritical coal-fired plants which filter 99.8 per cent of PM 2.5 emissions (Particulate Matter that is 2.5 microns in diameter or less).
The Notley government said that to improve human health, it is shutting down the province’s efficient and low cost generating sites. At first glance, this certainly seems like a worthwhile goal, until one looks at Environment Canada’s data. In terms of affecting air quality, in 2011, Environment Canada says that coal fired plants in Alberta emitted less than one-half of one percent (0.44 per cent) of human caused PM 2.5 emissions.
Coal plants emitted 1,800 tonnes of PM 2.5. Wildfires emitted 1,715,500 tonnes and dust from roads emitted 213,100 tonnes. Even residential fireplaces emitted nearly twice as much PM 2.5 as Alberta’s electrical coal plants. This low cost, efficient coal system has been a key part of Alberta’s past economic success.
The unfortunate fact is that electrical policy rooted in an ideological opposition to coal can’t be implemented without a steep and unnecessary price—billions. Second, despite the anti-coal rhetoric from the Notley government and individuals like Ottawa’s Catherine McKenna, the world’s larger industrial coal users are not buying into anti-coal doctrines.
Nations that have moved further down the road than Alberta with carbon taxes and ever growing high cost renewables, are easing back on what they’re doing or even moving back. The financial and human costs, are simply prohibitive.
Stuart Taylor, Hinton