Non-Renewable Energy Resources: Coal

Coal is one of the most abundant fossil fuels in the world and can be found in 70 countries, with Canada’s coal deposits ranking 13th largest in the world. More specifically, about 85% of all Canadian coal deposits are located in Alberta and British Columbia.[1]

The essential ingredient in coal is carbon. The carbon was squeezed from vegetation that was buried beneath soil millions of years ago through natural processes which subsequently compressed and heated up, essentially cooking the carbon and creating coal.[2] Major commercial coal exploitation, as we know it today, did not begin until the late 1700s/early 1800s. The use of coal picked up with the Canadian Pacific Railway and the first large-scale coal mine in Alberta, the Galt mine, opened in 1882.[3]

In 2016, only 9 coal mines and 18 coal-fired electricity generators remained.[4] However, coal still accounts for approximately 43% of power generation capacity in the province.[5]

This source of Alberta power is changing. There is new focus on legislation to phase out coal-fired generators and replace them with renewable energy. Currently thermal coal production is projected to decline 50% between 2016 and 2026, in large part due to new environmental regulations.[6] Coal production will be affected in particular by those projects that work to green the grid or get Albertan electricity from somewhere other than coal.[7]

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[1] Natural Resources Canada, “Coal” (11 September 2018) Government of Canada online: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/facts/coal/20071.

[2] Alberta Culture & Tourism, “Global Coal Formation” Government of Alberta online: http://history.alberta.ca/energyheritage/coal/early-coal-history-to-1900/global-coal-formation/default.aspx.

[3] Alberta Culture and Tourism, “Alberta’s First Coal Mining Community” (2018) Government of Alberta online: http://history.alberta.ca/energyheritage/coal/the-early-development-of-the-coal-industry-1874-1914/coal-town-formation/albertas-first-coal-mining-community.aspx.

[4] Alberta Open Data, “Phase-out of coal-fired emissions in Alberta” Government of Alberta online: https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/9cc07f29-aee3-4c09-b13f-a7e22b59fef1/resource/3a1ec661-0375-4b7b-9e52-be043e6c269f/download/2016-03-fs-coal-phase-out.pdf.

[5] Alberta Open Data, “Phase-out of coal-fired emissions in Alberta”; Alberta Electric System Operator, “7 Day Hourly Availability Capability Report” online: http://ets.aeso.ca/ets_web/ip/Market/Reports/SevenDaysHourlyAvailableCapabilityReportServlet?contentType=html.

[6] Alberta Energy Regulator, “Coal Supply/Demand” (July 2017) online: https://www.aer.ca/providing-information/data-and-reports/statistical-reports/coal-supply-demand.  

[7] Wallis Snowden, “Leduc No. 1: Seven decades ago, a single oil well changed Alberta history” (13 February 2017) CBC News online: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/leduc-oil-discovery-anniversary-oil-boom-history-1.3980331.

 

 

 

Energy Law

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