TransAlta President & CEO Dawn Farrell speaks during at the company’s annual general meeting in Calgary on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

TransAlta President & CEO Dawn Farrell speaks during at the company’s annual general meeting in Calgary on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

Hundreds of coal mining jobs to end as Alberta power company switches to natural gas

Power in Alberta generated from coal has fallen from 80 per cent in the 1980s to less than one-third now

Alberta power producer TransAlta Corp. says it will end operations at its Highvale thermal coal mine west of Edmonton by the end of 2021 as it switches to natural gas at all of its operated coal-fired plants in Canada four years earlier than previously planned.

The announcement will result in hundreds of mine job losses as employment drops to 40 to 50 people involved in reclamation work, expected to take about 20 years, from a peak workforce of around 1,500, said CEO Dawn Farrell on a conference call on Wednesday.

TransAlta confirmed last week it had closed a $400-million second tranche of a $750-million investment by an affiliate of Brookfield Asset Management, with the proceeds to be used to advance its coal-to-gas conversion program and other corporate purposes.

But on the call, Farrell said Brookfield’s purchase of convertible securities wasn’t responsible for the board’s decision to accelerate its coal-to-gas conversions.

“It’s really related to, overall, the economics of producing power in Alberta on coal with the carbon tax,” she said on the call.

“We’ve currently got a $30 (per tonne) carbon tax, it’ll be $40 by next year, $50 the year after. Coal plants get less economic and they’re less flexible in a merchant market.”

The percentage of power in Alberta generated from coal has fallen from more than 80 per cent in the 1980s to less than one-third now, in part due to rising provincial government prices on carbon that began in 2007. The electricity market was deregulated in 1996, which means prices are set through competition.

“It’s good news for GHG reduction and the health of Albertans to have coal being phased out earlier,” said Binnu Jeyakumar, director of clean energy for the environmental Pembina Institute, adding coal power profitability is becoming less attractive as the costs of renewable power fall.

She cautioned, however, that converted coal plants are unlikely to be as efficient as new natural gas powered plants and added that fugitive gas emissions from production and transportation of gas also present an ongoing GHG risk.

TransAlta said it will stop burning coal in its Keephills Unit 1 and Sundance Unit 4 plants, which will operate at lower capacity with natural gas, while it evaluates full conversion projects.

A conversion project at Sundance Unit 6 is to be complete in a few weeks and the conversions of Keephills Unit 2 and Unit 3 are to be wrapped up in 2021.

The company announced it will proceed with the full $800-million conversion of Sundance Unit 5 to allow it to produce about 730 megawatts when it comes online in Q4 2023.

“Our greenhouse gas emissions will be under 11.5 million tonnes by the end of 2022, down almost 70 per cent from 2005,” said Farrell, who said it has cut 32 million tonnes per year across its worldwide operations since 2005 and 21 million in Canada.

“TransAlta has more than met it’s fair share of the Paris agreement. To date, we alone have delivered 10 per cent of Canada’s goal of a 220-million-tonne reduction for Canadians by 2030.”

She said TransAlta should be a “sought after investment” for clean energy investors.

The company will still produce power from coal at its Centralia facility in Washington State, which has a transition agreement allowing it to burn coal until its end of life in 2025, Farrell said on the call.

TransAlta also owns a 25 per cent stake in the Sheerness power plant in western Alberta, which is operated by American firm Heartland Generation Ltd., and continues to burn coal although it has some dual-fuel capabilities.

TransAlta reported a loss attributable to common shareholders of $136 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30 compared with a profit of $51 million in the same quarter a year earlier.

Revenue was $514 million, down from $593 million in the same quarter last year.

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

Albertacoal mine

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday 12, 2020.

Manluk Centre/ Impress
Manluk Centre re-opens to the public

Drop in and registered programs will be available; one-third facility capacity to be followed.

File photo
Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are looking for male responsible for an armed robbery at Super Car and RV Wash in Leduc.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Most Read