MLA speaks against coal transition action

Critics of the province’s coal transition action feel the decision will hurt Albertans financially in the long run.

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr

Critics of the province’s coal transition action feel the decision will hurt Albertans financially in the long run.

The Government of Alberta made the announcement Nov. 24 stating a goal to end coal-fired emissions on or before the end of 2030.

The 14-year plan sets out transition payments $1.1 billion in total to power companies TransAlta, Capital Power and ATCO. Funding the transition payments will come from the province’s price on carbon emissions.

For those coal communities affected, the province stated there will be additional support, however, it is unclear what that support will be.

Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, stated in the release that, “The government is committed to working with existing Alberta businesses as we transition away from coal, and we are making good on that commitment today.”

For Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr’s perspective, the decision will hurt Albertans in the long-run. The announcement sets out two government actions: putting a price cap of 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour and creating what is called an electricity capacity market by 2021.

For the latter it sets out a system of paying for energy ahead of time, something Orr feels will cost ratepayers. “This means that we will not pay for actual energy delivered, but for generating capacity even if there is no actual production,” he said in an email interview.

“It appears that this is how the government will force the shut down of coal,” he continued. “But probably not have to follow through with a court case against the producers, that they can’t hope to win.”

“The coal plants will be shut down, but will still continue to be paid for their potential to produce.”

His biggest concern is how this will affect the communities where coal plants are based. He suggests wind and solar energy, where the province intends to invest money, is erratic and unstable.

“The taxpayers will also be on the hook for this subsidized replacement production,” said Orr.

Looking at the energy cap, Orr had further concerns. “So, now we move, from a free-floating rate for power, currently at about 3.8 cents kwh, to a max capped rate of 6.8 cents Kwh, nearly double.”

“This is supposed to be good news for the people of Ponoka who get to help pay for all this with increased taxes,” said Orr.

He added the Wildrose Party has a plan that will reduce carbon emissions while protecting jobs in the coal industry.

From an environmental standpoint, one group favours the announcement.

In the press release, Kim Perrotta, executive director with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said the phase out will reduce premature deaths. “Ending coal pollution in Alberta will save lives, prevent chronic heart and lung diseases, make breathing easier for those with asthma and reduce health-care costs by reducing emergency room visits and hospital admissions.”