Coal an important ingredient in Canada's energy mix

CALGARY, ALBERTA - While coal-fired power generation remains an important component of Canada's energy industry, environmental concerns could limit its wider development, the National Energy Board (NEB) said.

In a briefing note called “Coal-Fired Power Generation: A Perspective”, the NEB describes the factors that influence the use of coal-fired power generation to meet Canadian energy requirements.

Canada's coal reserves are roughly equivalent to its oil reserves and coal fired generation represents over 16 200 MW of the installed power generation capacity in Canada: 13 per cent of Canada's total. In 2006, approximately 16 per cent of Canada's electricity was generated from coal, mostly in Alberta and Ontario. Coal-fired generation is non-existent in provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec, which have an abundance of hydroelectric resources.

The NEB expects that the use of coal will decline but will remain an important part of meeting Canada's energy requirements with an estimated 10,000 MW of installed capacity in place in 2030.

Some of the issues surrounding coal-burning processes originate from environmental concerns. Coal-fired processes - even with access to the most up to date technology and low sulphur coal - result in more greenhouse gas emissions than gas-fired generation. Uncertainty about the direction of future GHG regulations, and the cost and reliability of newly developed, clean coal technologies limit the opportunity for increased coal-fired generation. Time will tell whether carbon capture and storage technology will prove viable for coal-fired power plants.


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