The Future of Coal in Saskatchewan

Read our first report, Bridging the Gap, here (pdf)

The Future of Coal in Saskatchewan is an ongoing project that began in October 2017. The project has multiple strands exploring prospects for a just transition to renewable energy across the province. The first phase of the project, which focused on engagement with residents of the province’s coal-producing communities, has been completed. You can find our first report, released in November 2018, and learn more about this phase of the project here: Bridging the Gap

Canada has made a phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity generation a centrepiece of its GHG emissions reductions strategy, and for good reason – although coal produces approximately 10% of the country’s electricity, it produces more than 75% of the country’s electricity-related emissions. On top of that, coal pollution is a significant health risk for many Canadians. Of course, the distribution of coal varies across the country, and in fact only 4 provinces continue to rely on coal for electricity, with Saskatchewan and Alberta accounting for more than 85% of all coal burned in the country. While Alberta has developed its own plan to phase-out coal generation by 2030, Saskatchewan currently has no serious plans when it comes to coal, which is a serious problem.


Source: SaskPower

In 2016 coal accounted for over 40% of SK’s power generation. Alarmingly, in the province’s 2017 climate change strategy, Prairie Resilience, coal is barely mentioned and only in relation to exploring the viability of further Carbon Capture and Storage implementation, despite the fact that SaskPower has cast doubt on the future of CCS.

CJS believes this province can move past coal towards renewable electricity generation, and we’re working on a research project to make this case. This includes addressing both technical and social challenges, so our group is both modelling renewable energy choices and engaging with coal-producing communities to try and help bridge the gap between folks in the province on this issue.

We’ll be posting results as they become available, so stay tuned for more information. For now, you can find a couple of introductory videos along with a short podcast below. You can visit the dedicated page for the first phase of the project, Bridging the Gap, here.

This video offers a brief introduction to what we’re working on:

This video offers some more context, and a preview of a second upcoming report:

Again, you can check out our Bridging the Gap page to find our first research report, based on interviews with community members in Estevan and Coronach, Saskatchewan’s principal coal-producing communities.

In 2017 Heritage Saskatchewan undertook a project entitled Coal in Coronach: a living heritage project. You can watch the short documentary they produced below, and find the booklet they produced here. These resources offer a lot of information about Coronach perspectives and about what coal has meant for the community.

Near the outset of this project, we sat down with Dr. Andrew Watson, professor in the Department of History and the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan, and chatted about his work examining the history of coal in Canada. Listen here:

Significant events

The terrain surrounding ongoing policy debates about climate change is ever shifting, and a lot has happened since we first began planning this project in October of 2017. Below we have kept track of a number of significant events in regards to Saskatchewan’s position on climate change and the future of coal-fired electricity in Saskatchewan.

Date Event Significance
Dec 12 2017 SK gov releases Prairie Resilience Saskatchewan’s new climate strategy barely mentions coal
Jan 27 2018 Scott Moe elected leader of Saskatchewan Party Retains former Premier Brad Wall’s position on climate change and the Pan-Canadian Framework
Feb 23 2018 Manitoba signs the Pan-Canadian Framework Manitoba introduces a flat rate carbon price at $25/tonne CO2e
Feb 28 2018 Deadline for signing the Pan-Canadian Framework Federal government maintains that accessing $67 million in federal funding form the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund is contingent on signing; SK does not sign
Apr 11-14 2018 CJS travels to Estevan & Coronach We conduct 17 interviews with community members
Apr – Aug 2018 SK pursues consultations on Prairie Resilience No additions made pertaining to coal; added “workforce employed in low carbon economy” as a resiliency measure (but not targeted to specific communities)
Apr 25 2018 Just Transition Task Force for coal workers and communities announced by federal government Task force to tour communities in order to advise federal government on how best to ensure that those affected by a coal phase-out are supported in the transition away from coal
Jun 7 2018 Progressive Conservative Party elected in Ontario Ontario’s cap-and-trade and energy retrofit programs are repealed and ON joins SK in opposing federal carbon pricing scheme
Jun 12/13 2018 Just Transition Task Force visits Estevan & Coronach Part of a tour of communities in AB, SK, NB & NS
Jul 9 2018 SaskPower announces they are not moving ahead with further carbon capture projects at Boundary Dam 4 & 5 SaskPower states that it is not practical to retrofit the two aging facilities as they are near the end of their useful lives.
Nov 28 2018 Release of Bridging the Gap We launch the first report of the Future of Coal project
Nov 28 2018 Federal government finalizes coal phase-out regulations Reiterates that all traditional coal-fired electricity must be phased out by Dec 29 2029
Dec 13 2018 Saskatchewan Environmental Society publishes comprehensive analysis of Prairie Resilience Finds plan to be grossly inadequate for contributing to national and international GHG reduction efforts
Dec 28 2018 CAN-SK equivalency agreement regarding GHG from electricity producers finalized If official, allows Boundary Dam units 4 & 5 to remain open to 2021 and 2024, respectively
Feb 13/14 2019 CAN-SK reference case on carbon pricing heard in SK Court of Appeal Judge reserves decision after hearing from both sides
Mar 11 2019 Just Transition Task Force releases its final reports Includes recommendations to the federal government for supporting coal-producing communities through the transition
Mar 30-31 2019 CJS returns to Estevan & Coronach We report back on our findings and host community workshops

We would like to thank the Pembina Institute, the Council of Canadians, Eco-Friendly Sask, and the Corporate Mapping Project for supporting this work!

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