Press Release: Time to transition off coal to a renewable future

Press Release
Saskatchewan Environmental Society
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
For immediate release

The time has come to transition off coal to a renewable electrical future

Many existing coal-fired power stations in Saskatchewan are near the end of their useful life. Thus, between now and 2020 SaskPower will make crucial decisions concerning the province’s electricity future.

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) is urging SaskPower to make a priority of permanently closing each of its coal-fired power plants at or slightly before the end of their scheduled operating lifetime, and replacing them with renewable sources of electricity, or with other low carbon emitting sources of electricity generation.

In a 40-page SES submission to SaskPower, entitled Yes They Can: A 2020 Vision for SaskPower, lead author R. A. (Bob) Halliday emphasizes that Saskatchewan has the advantage of exceptional wind, solar, and biomass resources and that the time has come to fully utilize them to meet Saskatchewan’s expanding electrical needs.

For example, Halliday urges SaskPower to follow the lead of several U.S. jurisdictions by ensuring that within a decade 20 percent of all electrical generating capacity in Saskatchewan is wind power. Currently wind power sits at 198 megawatts – just five percent of Saskatchewan’s grid capacity. Halliday also urges SaskPower to follow the lead of Ontario by commissioning at least 300 megawatts of solar electrical capacity by 2022, and 200 megawatts of biomass capacity by 2022. To further consolidate coal phase-out in Saskatchewan, Halliday recommends importing 1,000 megawatts of hydro capacity from Manitoba.

The move towards a more sustainable electricity future should also include electricity efficiency and co-generation of electricity Halliday states. He says, “SaskPower could cut demand for electricity by 450 megawatts over the coming decade through a common sense electricity efficiency program. Moreover co-generation – the simultaneous production of heat and electricity – could be put in place at all of Saskatchewan’s potash mines. Natural gas is already being burned at these mine sites for industrial heat purposes. Why not simultaneously use that natural gas combustion to generate electricity at every potash mine site.”

The new investments referred to above would be combined with SaskPower’s current natural gas and hydro plants, and SaskPower’s Carbon Capture and Storage unit currently under construction at Boundary Dam, to meet existing electrical needs in Saskatchewan, as well as anticipated growth.

SES President Bert Weichel emphasized the urgent need for SaskPower to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint, which, for its size, far exceeds that of most utilities in Canada. Manmade greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of global climate change and SaskPower’s big source of greenhouse gases is its coal fired power plants.

“What Mr. Halliday has done is illustrate how SaskPower can meet its forecast of a doubling of electrical demand by 2032, while at the same time reducing its conventional coal capacity from today’s 1624 megawatts to just 276 megawatts by 2032. It’s a common sense approach that draws on real life examples of what other electrical utilities are already doing,” said Weichel.

Halliday emphasized that there are also significant economic risks to SaskPower continuing to be so coal dependent. He says, “As agreements to reduce global climate change impacts are forged, carbon taxes on coal use in Canada and other parts of the world are likely to follow,” he said. “If Saskatchewan is still dependent on conventional coal when these taxes take effect, electrical prices here will jump very sharply. Going off coal shelters us from that risk.”