Pembina Institute applauds the government of Canada’s decision to phase-out of coal fired power nationwide by the end of December, 2029.  Getty Images photo.

In 2016, coal fired power produced less than 10 per cent of Canadian electricity, but was responsible for nearly three-quarters of GHG emissions from the sector

Late last month, the Trudeau government announced it will introduce legislation to phase out traditional coal fired power by December 2029, accelerating the shift to greener energy in Canada.

Binnu Jeyakuman, Director of Clean Energy at the Pembina Institute heralded the decision, calling it “a historic step in protecting public health and sending a signal for clean energy investments”.

“With this regulation, the Government of Canada has delivered on one of its marquee climate and energy policies under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change,” said Jeyakuman.

Under the previous government, the first phase of carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power was implemented in 2012.  Under these rules by the Harper government, unabated coal fired generation would continue until at least 2053.

“Coal is the source of many air pollutants — including mercury and particulate matter — that result in adverse health effects like asthma and heart disease,” said Jeyakuman. She added “It is also becoming increasingly uneconomic, and unable to compete with gas and renewables”.

In 2016, coal fired electrical generation produced less than 10 per cent of Canada’s electricity needs, but it was responsible for almost 75 per cent of GHG emissions from the sector.

Overall, electricity generates about 11 per cent of total Canadian greenhouse gas emissions.

As governments, investors and utilities shift away from coal, Jeyakuman says “Canada’s phase-out policy places it firmly in line with scientific and economic analyses showing that all developed countries must exit coal by 2030 at the latest”.

The new rules will move Canada substantially closer to its climate target for 2030, however, the climate benefits depend upon the earliest possible conversions of existing coal units to gas plants with a limited lifetime.

The Pembina Institute is calling on the Trudeau government to also step up investment in clean energy and support for transition of workers.

“With the near-complete decarbonization of the electricity grid, it will be much easier for the transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors to become less polluting and help Canada reach its climate goals.”

As well, health benefits of the accelerated phase out of coal include air quality improvements valued at $1.3 billion through 2055.

By 2030, the Pembina Institute says this regulatory action is expected to take Canada between 9 and 12 Mt of the way toward its 2030 Paris target, and reduces 161 Mt cumulatively through 2055.