Almost 70 percent of Albertans would like their province to phase out its coal power plants or shut them down altogether in favour of natural gas and renewable energy sources, according to a new poll.
“This research suggests that Albertans want their province to put cleaner energy sources to work to create jobs and cut health care costs,” said Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada director Merran Smith.
Coal currently provides Alberta with 70 percent of its electricity. As a result, the province’s power grid produces five times more carbon pollution than the national average. In early April, Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada commissioned NRG Research Group to ask Albertans what, if anything, they would do about it.
In response, 68 percent of Albertans said they would either like their province to phase out coal power and replace it with natural gas and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro—or shut the coal plants altogether.
In contrast, just 14 percent of respondents stated they would like the province to keep the current amount of coal-fired power, while about the same number (15 percent) stated they would require the plants to implement carbon capture and storage technology.
The province is currently drafting an Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy Framework, and is expected to begin implementing it next year. According to recent news reports, Energy Minister Ken Huges is in talks with renewable energy companies, and is entertaining policy proposals that would seek to green the grid. The polling underscores the framework’s timeliness and importance.
“Many Albertans don’t know that the amount of carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants is almost as much as that from all oil sands operations,” said Smith. “By greening the grid, Alberta could clean up both its image and its air.”
Other provinces such as Nova Scotia and Ontario are phasing out coal power by implementing policies that support clean electricity. A new Canadian wind energy sector market forecast by research firm Clear Sky Advisors concludes that, with the right policy environment, Alberta has the potential to replace Quebec as the second-largest wind power market in Canada.
A report released last month by a coalition of public health and energy advocacy organizations estimated that Alberta’s coal dependence costs the province almost $300 million per year, mostly in increased health damages that are not borne by the coal industry.