On March 16, 2016, the Government of Alberta finally named the coal facilitator, and announced the next steps for its plan to phase-out coal by 2030.  The province appointed Terry Boston to act as the province’s independent coal phase-out facilitator, and released details of Boston’s mandate and next steps.

Boston’s Prior Experience

Boston is the recently retired CEO of PJM Interconnection (PJM), which is a regional transmission organization in the United States.  PJM controls approximately 105,502 km of transmission lines and manages 186,000 MW of generation serving 61 million people.

Boston has been involved with energy initiatives around the world, including consultation with White House staff and Congress, and has testified before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and served on a number of corporate boards within the electricity industry.  Boston is a recognized expert in grid reliability and transmission.

Purpose of the Facilitator

Boston is tasked with presenting options to government that will strive to maintain the reliability of Alberta’s electricity grid, maintain stability of prices for consumers, and avoid unnecessarily stranding capital.

Desired Outcomes of the Facilitation Process

The desired outcomes are those which have been iterated in the Climate Leadership Plan, namely, that by 2030, two-thirds of Alberta’s coal generation capacity will be replaced by renewable energy, and one-third will be replaced by natural gas.  The provincial government has repeatedly promised that “throughout this process, government will ensure that workers, communities and affected companies are treated fairly.”

Facilitator’s Approach and Deliverables

One key aspect of Boston’s work is that he will engage with the three coal-fired generators who are currently operating units beyond 2030, with the support of Alberta Energy’s Coal Secretariat and the Alberta Electric System Operator.

Because twelve of Alberta’s eighteen coal-fired generating units are expected to shut down prior to 2030 under the current federal regulations, the facilitator’s mandate is focused on the six generating units remaining after 2030.  As set out in the previously released Fact Sheet on the coal phase-out, this will entail discussions with Capital Power, TransAlta, and ATCO Power about the Keephills 3, Genesee 1, 2 & 3, and Sheerness 1 & 2 thermal generating units.

What’s Next?

In addition to consultation with affected generators, the government is also engaging in a parallel process of consultation with the goal of ensuring ongoing support for coal communities and workers.  More announcements on the next stage of these consultations are expected in the next month.

In another recent announcement, the March 8, 2016 Speech from the Throne touched on the implementation of climate change initiatives, noting that one of the elements of “investing in a clean energy future” will be a Climate Leadership Implementation Act, designed to put the Climate Change Plan into action.  Further detail on this legislation, and what it may mean for Albertans, is still up in the air.