Transitioning to Renewable Energy
December 18, 2017
Recent announcements by two of Alberta’s major electric power producers, ATCO Limited and TransAlta Corporation, have indicated they are accelerating the transition to clean energy, with ATCO stating they will convert over to natural gas by 2020 and TransAlta Corporation converting its facilities by 2023.
In our riding of Yellowhead, we will see Sundance Unit 1 and Sundance Unit 2, located near Wabamun Lake, close early in 2018. There are plans on restarting Unit 2 by 2021 and converting the three other units in Sundance and Keephills by 2023.
I am all for reducing our carbon footprint and I understand the dynamics faced by the coal-fired electric facilities. Alberta has always relied heavily on coal-fired electrical energy and over 50% of Alberta’s electricity has been produced by coal in 18 different generating stations across the province. The 2030 deadline set by the Liberal Government in 2016, through their Climate Leadership Plan, required the phasing out of coal. These two major power producers are moving much faster than the deadline that was imposed on them, and I am concerned about the thousands of jobs that will be affected by the shutdown of these coal mines – many of which are in the Yellowhead region.
I understand that the Alberta Government has pledged financial assistance, through their carbon tax, for the transition to renewable energy. In part, they have committed $291 million in transition payments as part of the coal phase out agreements and $151 million to assist Indigenous communities transition to a cleaner economy. In November, the Alberta Government announced it is putting $40 million aside from the carbon tax to help workers losing their jobs due to the transition to renewable energy.
It is critical that both the Alberta Government and TransAlta Corporation work with those who will have to transition into new jobs.
I, like many of you, have argued that clean coal was a viable option and had hoped that our local generating facilities in Yellowhead could have been converted over to clean technology, similar to the Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan (via carbon capture and storage).
I encourage the Alberta Government to work with our coal and indigenous communities that rely on the jobs supplied by this industry. It is time to ensure that the Coal Community Survey, conducted by Alberta Labour, and Alberta’s “Advisory Panel on Coal Communities” be part of the strategies used to help in the transition of workers.
Renewable energy is the future, but we must protect those who have made careers out of mining coal.