Ontario passes bill banning coal-fired electricity generation

By Katie Fletcher | December 03, 2015

In the days leading up to the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties on global climate change, which is now underway in Paris, Ontario passed legislation to permanently ban coal-fired electricity generation in the province. Ontario is the first to do so in North America.

Passed last week, Bill 9, Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act amends the Environmental Protection Act adding a new Part VI.1 to require the cessation of coal use to generate electricity at generation facilities. The legislation prevents new and existing facilities from burning coal for the sole purpose of generating electricity. It sets maximum fines for anyone who violates the ban and enshrines the health and environmental benefits of making coal-fired electricity illegal in law, according to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

“Ontario’s ban on coal-fired power is an important success story that I will be proud to share with world leaders at the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties in Paris,” said Glen Murray, minister of the Environment and Climate Change. “Provincial efforts are critical to Canada’s success to fight climate change and Ontario will work closely with the new federal government to fully leverage all possible opportunities to continue to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Section 59.2 of the bill specifies power facilities that must ensure coal is not used including the Atikokan, Lambton, Nanticoke and Thunder Bay generating stations. The next part, section 59.3, generally prohibits the use of coal at generation facilities to generate electricity after Dec. 31, 2014.  However, this prohibition does not apply to two types of generation facilities. One type is a generation facility at a facility that produces a product other than electricity or steam where the generation of electricity is not the primary purpose of the facility. The other type is a generation facility that uses heat, steam or byproduct gas from another facility that produces a product other than electricity or steam where the generation of electricity is not the primary purpose of the other facility.

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change considers this landmark legislation, building on Ontario’s leadership on climate change. Last year, the province closed its last coal-fired power plant, the Thunder Bay Generation Station operated by Ontario Power Generation. This year, the generating station is now burning advanced biomass pellets. OPG’s 200-MW Atikokan Generating Station began producing renewable electricity with woody biomass in mid-2014.

According to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, closing coal has helped reduce the number of smog days in Ontario from 53 in 2005 to zero in 2015.

This news builds upon Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy, a comprehensive approach to help Ontarians adapt to climate change, meet Ontario's emissions reduction targets and achieve the goal of a healthy, productive, prosperous province recognized as a world leader in climate change solutions. This strategy sets out Ontario's vision for combating climate change and achieving a GHG emissions reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. A separate five-year action plan to be released in 2016 will include specific commitments for meeting Ontario’s 2020 emissions reduction target and establish the necessary framework to meet 2030 and 2050 targets.

Murray said Ontario has demonstrated leadership and commitment to fighting climate change through a series of bold measures. Besides ending coal-fired power, the province is working on improving the province’s transit network and announced a cap and trade program to limit GHG pollution and fight climate change. “These actions, and others, have already taken us a long way down the road. But there is still much more to do,” Murray said. “By 2050, we envision Ontarians will be using less energy and the energy we do use will be from low-carbon sources.”