Making Progress in Phasing-out Coal-fired Electricity

Spotlight Activity: Making Progress in Phasing-out Coal-fired Electricity

Canada already has one of the cleanest electricity systems in the world. 82% of its electricity production comes from non-emitting sources. Building on prior action in provinces and territories, Canada has committed to stringent performance standards and by December 31, 2029 it plans to phase out traditional coal-fired electricity generation to achieve Canada’s Paris Agreement commitment. In addition, in November 2017, Canada and the UK launched the ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’ at COP 23, a global effort to accelerate a phase out of coal-fired electricity.

Year two’s implementation report on Canada’s Paris targets (December 2018), notes while electricity emissions are going down in large part due to the move away from coal-fired power, electricity generation is still Canada’s fourth-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) and makes up 11% of total national emissions. Coal-fired electricity makes up 9.5% of Canada’s electricity generation. Canada has progressively reduced coal consumption by 24% since 1990 and by 41% since 2000.

The regulatory environment is centered at the provincial level, which has full authority over local electrical system regulations, policies, and enforcement. In 2017, there were 36 coal-fired electricity generating units operating at 16 facilities in five provinces, with a combined generating capacity of approximately 10,000 megawatts. 20 of these facilities are expected to shut down before 2030. One unit in Saskatchewan is equipped with carbon capture and storage technology to meet the 2030 420 tonnes of CO2/GWh performance standard to operate past its prescribed useful lifespan. Saskatchewan also has GGE regulations. Ontario and Manitoba have already phased out their coal use; New Brunswick and Alberta’s phase out is expected by 2030; Nova Scotia has a regulatory framework to transition from coal to clean electricity. British Columbia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland/Labrador, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon do not use coal power. Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only provinces that rely primarily on fossil fuels.

Canada’s coal production in 2017 was 61 million tonnes (Mt) of which 56% was metallurgical coal (coking or steel manufacturing) and 44% thermal coal (electricity generation). Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan produced 99% of Canada’s coal, and Nova Scotia 1%. Canada exported about half its production. Electricity generation consumed 34.4 Mt of coal in 2016, a 5% decrease from 36.2 Mt in 2015. In 2005, coal was 16% of Canada’s electricity generation. It is now at 9.5%. In 2017, Canada exported 31 Mt of coal (2.2% globally) and imported 7.5 Mt mainly from the U.S.A. Imports have trended downwards for over a decade, while exports have held steady (mainly to Asia). Canada’s exports are primarily metallurgical coal (93% in 2017). With the phasing out of coal-fired electricity, energy produced by coal will be eliminated by 2030. That said, coal will continue to be used for metallurgical processes.

Visit coal regulations at

The expected benefit of a coal phase out is $4.9 billion, including $3.6 billion in avoided climate change damage benefits and $1.3 billion in health and environmental benefits. It will also lead to a cumulative reduction of 100 Mt GGE, including 16 Mt in 2030.

Status: Right Direction (needs more work)

Take Action

To request action, please contact Minister Catherine McKenna, with the following message:

A key to the climate change issue is coal being responsible for 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions last year, putting it ahead of oil (34%) and natural gas (19%), according to the Global Carbon Project group. Greater efforts are needed by governments and industry to reduce pollution with cleaner technology and sources of energy. Canada must champion this.

Send Action Alert Message to:

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change


Mail: 200 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard, Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0H3

Tel: 819-938-3860 or toll-free: 1-800-668-6767

For more information, please email Climate Scorecard Canadian Country Manager: Diane Szoller at

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