Capital Power announced that the Genesee Generating Station has officially stopped burning coal and is now 100% natural gas-fueled, signaling a likely end for coal power in the Canadian province of Alberta.

As part of the Genesee Repowering project, Capital Power said the facility completed simple cycle commissioning for Unit 1 on May 3. Simple cycle testing is underway on Unit 2 and Unit 3 has already transitioned to natural gas. The project expects to continue with combined cycle completion in the final quarter of 2024, which would result in 512 MW of additional capacity.

We’ve reported on Alberta’s dramatic shift from coal, which represented more than half of Alberta’s fuel mix as recently as 2015.

Industry experts and elected leaders attribute the shift to aggressive policies from both the federal and provincial government, as well as shifting market dynamics, like lower natural gas prices and competitive solar and wind.

Capital Power said the end of coal at Genesee comes five years ahead of the Alberta government mandate.

Timeline for coal exit

Coal’s dominance in Alberta’s electricity market has declined steadily since the 1980s, when coal-fired generation provided over 80% of the province’s electricity.

When the Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) government was elected in 2015, coal power remained over 50% of the province’s installed capacity.

Previous federal regulations had required 12 of Alberta’s 18 coal-fired units to be retired by 2029. But in 2015, Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP government accelerated the phase-out of the province’s six youngest coal units, owned by TransAlta, ATCO, and Capital Power. The provincial government also announced it would align with the Federal government’s 2030 target to phase out coal altogether.

In November 2016, the government announced off-coal agreements with TransAlta, ATCO and Capital Power. Through those pacts, the provincial government would pay out a total of C$1.36 billion ($1.03 billion) over 14 years (2017–2030), with the funds coming from the province’s carbon tax on large industrial emitters.

In mid-2017, ATCO and TransAlta—the two biggest coal power producers in Alberta—announced plans to convert their coal units to natural gas. ATCO planned to make the swicth by 2020, and TransAlta planned to do the same by the end of 2023. ATCO ultimately chose to sell all its Canadian-based fossil-fuel assets, including nine units in Alberta.

In January 2022, TransAlta officially stopped burning coal across all of Canada. The conversion of Keephills Unit 3 from coal to natural gas was the last of three planned conversions at the power producer’s facilities in Alberta. At the time, the company said it had spent C$295 million ($232.27 million) on coal-to-gas conversion projects at its Keephills, Sundance and Sheerness facilities.

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