Alberta’s Notley promises details of coal phase-out plan coming this fall

EDMONTON – Premier Rachel Notley says Alberta will roll out specifics this fall of its plan to phase out coal-fired electricity and promote renewable energy.

Notley, in a state-of-the-province speech Wednesday, said the plan will include financial help to coal emitters closing their plants and transitioning to cleaner forms of power.

There will also be details on how proponents will be able to bid to replace coal generation in the Alberta market.

“And we will set out more detail on how we will promote the construction of clean, renewable energy — wind, solar, thermal and hydropower — efficiently, economically and without undue subsidy,” Notley said.

Notley’s government has promised to end coal-fired electricity generation by 2030. It’s part of a larger climate-change plan outlined last year that includes a broad-based carbon tax beginning in January.

The tax will increase gas prices at the pump and home heating bills, although lower- and middle-income earners will receive partial or full rebates.

Other plans call for a cap on oilsands emissions, an energy efficiency program and a methane-reduction program.

In her speech, Notley stressed that while the government won’t inflict deep cuts to get out of the current recession, public-sector budgets are at their limit.

“We are very unlikely to have a lot of headroom for major new spending proposals until recovery occurs,” she said.

“People providing public services or other services funded by the provincial government need to find innovative ways to do more with the funding that they have now.”

Municipal leaders may have to make choices, she said. “The exciting new proposals that they have will probably need to be paid for by reallocations.

“Starting a new project might mean moving money from an old (one).”

A protracted slide in the price of oil has cuts billions of dollars from Alberta’s bottom line. The province is projected to run a $10.9-billion deficit this fiscal year, some of that just to pay for daily operating and program expenses.

Notley’s speech took a swipe at former Progressive Conservative governments, although not by name.

She said former governments should have done more to diversify the economy. And, she said, by refusing to bring in a credible climate-change program, the Tories gave ammunition to opponents of Alberta’s attempts to get a pipeline to tidewater to take advantage of the global market.

She criticized the Tories’ flat tax on personal income, since replaced by the NDP with a graduated tax which increases taxes for those in higher brackets.

“Socialism for the rich and austerity for everyone else is a completely discredited approach,” Notley said.

Wildrose energy critic Leela Aheer said promises and plans are of little comfort to thousands of Albertans losing their jobs due to low oil prices.

“There are families that are suffering right now — right now — that can’t put food on their tables,” Aheer told reporters.

“Let’s actually do something for these families.”

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said the tone of the speech was inappropriate.

“She spent an awfully long time running down the opposition,” said Clark. “What she is doing is creating division in Alberta at a time when a premier, when a leader, ought to be bringing our province together.”