OREANDA-NEWS. November 22, 2016.  The country's minister of environment and climate change Catherine McKenna proposed regulatory changes today under which utilities would have to either shut down coal-fired power plants or retrofit them with carbon capture technology by 2030. It also will set parameters for converting coal-fired boilers to natural gas and develop performance standards that require new natural gas-fired plants to be built using "efficient technology."

The announcement accelerates by at least a few years emissions reductions targets set in 2012 and builds on plans parts of the country already had in place to decrease or eliminate their reliance on coal generation. Provincial leaders and the federal government are scheduled to meet next month to develop a climate-change plan. Canada wants 90pc of its power to come from non-emitting sources by the end of the next decade, up from about 80pc now.

Canada plans to amend its rules on performance standards for new coal-fired generation and units that have reached the end of their useful life to cap CO2 emissions at 420 metric tonnes/GWh. Natural gas units with more than 100MW of capacity that sell or distribute more than 33pc of their potential electricity output to the electricity grid would have to meet the same standard. Smaller units would be limited to no more than 500t of CO2/GWh per year.

Plants converted from coal to natural gas would have to meet a performance standard of 550t of CO2/GWh per year for a 15-year period or until 2045, whichever comes first. After that they too would be limited to 420t CO2/GWh.

The government plans to open its proposal for consultation and analysis in 2017 and expects to publish a final rule on the first portion of its plans at the end of 2018. It expects the amendments to be fully in effect for coal-fired generation by 2026 and gas-fired electricity by 2020.

Canada to work with the four provinces that have coal-fired generation — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — and may allow generators to keep some plants that do not have carbon capture capabilities on line if emissions reductions can be made elsewhere. It announced such an agreement with Nova Scotia today.

Nova Scotia already has reached the federal target for 2030 emissions reductions, but still got 56pc of its power from coal-fired generation last year. Under the agreement announced today by McKenna and Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil, the province will set up a cap-and-trade program and establish a new plan to move to clean energy sources while allowing its coal plants "to operate at some capacity beyond 2030."

The federal government will use the Canada Infrastructure Bank to finance certain clean energy and electricity system modernization projects. It did not mention coal technology investments.

The plan "is the wrong way to go," said Robin Campbell, president of the Coal Association of Canada. "We have a lot of coal in Canada, good quality coal and we think the government would be wise to invest in more research that we could patent and sell worldwide because the world is not getting off of coal."

Canada produced about 30mn t of thermal coal last year, most of which stayed in the country. It also imported 1.8mn t of steam coal, primarily from the US and Colombia.

According to Natural Resources Canada, 9.5pc of the country's electricity comes from coal and another 8.5pc from natural gas. But the provinces that have coal-fired power plants are more reliant on them for generation.

Alberta, which already has announced plans to exit coal generation by 2030, gets 51pc of its power from coal, according to government figures.

A comment from Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall was not immediately available. Forty-six percent of Saskatchewan's power is derived from coal.

New Brunswick's Environment and Local Government minister Serge Rousselle welcomed McKenna's announcement. Only about 30pc of the province's electric power comes from CO2 emitting sources.