Saskatchewan seeks wiggle room under Canada's end-of-coal program

The federal government announced regulatory actions that will accelerate the transition from traditional coal power to clean energy by 2030

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The Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Canada and the Office of the Minister of Environment for Saskatchewan on Nov. 28 jointly announced that the province is working on a break from the federal government's goal of ending coal-fired power in Canada by 2030.

The province and federal government have reached an agreement in principle to finalize an equivalency agreement for Canada's existing coal-fired regulation.

On Nov. 21, the federal government announced regulatory actions that will accelerate the transition from traditional coal power to clean energy by 2030. Traditional coal-fired electricity does not use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to trap CO2 and store it.

Once finalized, the federal/provincial equivalency agreement will provide Saskatchewan more flexibility in transitioning to additional renewable energy, including evaluating future opportunities for CCS. Through an equivalency agreement, the province would be allowed to meet or improve upon federal-emission requirements over time, on an electricity system-wide basis, as opposed to the regulation of every coal-fired plant.

The agreement in principle recognizes that Saskatchewan will meet the emissions outcomes of the federal government's coal-fired electricity regulations and proposes to take provincial emissions into account, as of July 1, 2015, in establishing the equivalency agreement. The agreement also acknowledges that the province has introduced CCS "in advance of, and beyond regulatory requirements" and that it has a significant public commitment to renewable energy.

"I'm very pleased to work with the province of Saskatchewan towards an equivalency agreement that makes sense for them and that considers the innovative steps they're taking towards renewable electricity and lower-emissions electricity sources. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with all provinces and territories, to find ambitious solutions to climate change as we set ourselves on a sustainable and prosperous path for the future," said Catherine McKenna, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

"This agreement is good news for Saskatchewan's environment and the provincial economy. We can proceed with our aggressive plan to move to 50 percent renewable-energy generation capacity by 2030, cutting emissions by 40 percent over 2005 levels. Saskatchewan can also continue to use coal in a responsible manner beyond 2030 as long as equivalent emission-reduction outcomes are achieved," said Scott Moe, Minister of the Environment for Saskatchewan.

In the fall of 2014, Saskatchewan Power's Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan became the first power station in the world to successfully use CCS technology. The CCS system was retrofitted on Unit 3 of this coal-fired plant.

In the meantime, SaskPower is working to comply with plans to increase Saskatchewan’s renewable power supply to up to 50 percent by 2030. An information session was held in Saskatoon on Nov. 17, hosted by SaskPower and the Ministry of Economy, in partnership with the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) and the Saskatchewan Industrial and Mining Suppliers’ Association. Those who attended had the opportunity to learn more about SaskPower’s future plans for renewable power, opportunities for developers and suppliers, and project requirements.

“The goal of today’s session is to share information about our utility-scale generation opportunities in an open and fair way,” said Grant Ring, SaskPower Vice-President, Procurement and Supply Chain, in a Nov. 17 statement. “We wanted to be out talking to potential suppliers in the early stages of our plans, so that independent power producers and potential suppliers are aware of the opportunities available and requirements that we’ll have as we grow our supply of renewable power.”

Ring noted that the event was the first opportunity for many Saskatchewan vendors to make connections with independent power producers, opening the door for future opportunities.

“SaskPower’s plan to reach 50 per cent of installed capacity with renewables represents a forward thinking approach to both modernizing their electricity system and to combatting emissions growth from the power sector,” said CanSIA President and CEO John Gorman.

“Saskatchewan’s plans to procure new clean, reliable and affordable wind energy have attracted significant interest from independent power producers and today’s event provided an excellent opportunity for project developers to meet with local suppliers to explore potential opportunities and partnerships that would further enhance the local economic benefits associated with wind energy development in Saskatchewan,” said CanWEA President Robert Hornung.

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