Ontario marks the imminent end of coal generation in the province

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Nov. 21 welcomed former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who is the Chairman of the Climate Reality Project, to an event to mark the end of coal-fired power in this Canadian province.

Gore has been a notable proponent for years of greenhouse gas controls to counter climate change. The Nov. 21 event highlighted the closure of Ontario Power Generation‘s coal-burning Lambton and Atikokan facilities ahead of schedule, and the upcoming closure of the Nanticoke Generating Station – which is the largest coal plant in North America.

Over the next year, OPG’s Thunder Bay station will stop burning coal and will be converted to use advanced biomass. This is the last major step in Ontario’s plan to eliminate coal-fired electricity.

In late November, as part of Ontario’s commitment to combat climate change, the province will also introduce the Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act to ensure the public health and climate change benefits of eliminating coal use for electricity generation in Ontario would be protected by legislation. The Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act would mandate that once coal facilities stop operating by the end of 2014, coal-fired generation on the electricity grid will never happen again.

“Our work on eliminating coal and investing in renewables is the strongest action being taken in North America to fight climate change,” said Wynne. “I believe we can work together as stewards of our natural environment and protect our children, our grandchildren and our fellow citizens.”

Said Gore: “To solve the climate crisis, we need people, provinces and countries to show the way forward towards a coal-free, sustainable future. Ontario has distinguished itself as a leader in Canada and around the world. It is heartening to see the tremendous progress that has been made here and it is my hope that others will quickly follow suit.”

Ontario’s elimination of coal-fired electricity is the single largest greenhouse gas reduction initiative in North America. According to an independent study, Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cost the people of Ontario an estimated C$4.4bn per year in health, environmental, and financial damages. Early coal closure at Lambton and Nanticoke will save the province’s electricity customers about C$95m through reduced operating and maintenance costs.

OPG and other power providers in the province have undertaken a range of initiatives to make up for the loss of coal generation, including revived nuclear generation by Bruce Power, plus new renewable and gas-fired projects. The province recently decided to at least temorarily shelve a plan by OPG to build new nuclear capacity.

The return of 3,000 MW of Bruce Power nuclear over the past decade has played a major role in improving Ontario’s air quality and helping the province shut down its coal-fired generating stations, said Bruce Power in a Nov. 21 statement about the Wynne-Gore event. With the revitalization of the Bruce site since 2001, Bruce Power has generated 70% of the energy needed to shut down all of Ontario’s coal plants, said Duncan Hawthorne, Bruce Power’s President and CEO.

“Bruce Power nuclear is a low-cost and clean source of reliable energy, and more Bruce Power nuclear means less electricity from coal,” Hawthorne said. “The revitalization of the Bruce Power site has contributed to the phase out of coal, along with a 93 per cent decrease in sulphur emissions.”

Bruce Power operates the world’s largest operating nuclear generating facility and is the source of about 25% of Ontario’s electricity. The company’s site in Tiverton, Ontario, is home to eight CANDU reactors. Formed in 2001, Bruce Power is an all-Canadian partnership among TransCanada, Cameco, Borealis Infrastructure Management (a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) as well as the Power Workers’ Union and Society of Energy Professionals.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.