In an unprecedented move, the provincial government of Canada’s Ontario province will burn zero coal by the conclusion of 2013. This is the first time any government in North America has decommissioned an entire coal fleet and serves as a reminder that ending coal use is possible and there are great benefits to doing so.
The last two baseload coal-fired plants will be closed an entire year ahead of schedule. This leaves a scant 1% of total electrical capability generated by coal, and Ontario’s only remaining coal generator, a very small backup unit, will be closed by 2014.
These plant closures demonstrate the efficacy of Ontario’s 2003 Green Energy Act. In fact, in 2003, coal accounted for 25% of electricity generation costs. 19 power plants and one generation station were in existence and ran at a peak capacity of 4,000MW – making it one of the largest coal plants in the world.
Ontario has already seen a significant decrease in sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. They are lower 93% and 85% respectively.
This move will lead to a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, equivalent to taking seven million cars off the road. Health and environmental external costs will be reduced by $4.4 billion.
Not only has the gradual reduction and final elimination of coal power brought tremendous environmental benefits, but Ontario has seen a huge boost in its economy since the clean energy shift. 28,000 green jobs have been created since 2009, and projections have the total number of jobs at 50,000 in a few more years.
Since Ontario is Canada’s most populated province, setting such a positive example and demonstrating that it is possible to live coal-free while reaping tremendous environmental and financial benefits should serve as an inspiration not only to other Canadian provinces, but to the world.