The world’s biggest coal-fired power plant is about to be closed.
The $6.4-billion, 1,700-megawatt plant at the St. Clair County site of the Alberta oil sands is due to close in 2019, but that will not be the last of the country’s biggest megacities to go coal.
The Alberta Power Generation Co. (APG) will be the largest private operator of the plant, which will be shuttered on December 31, 2019, the company announced Wednesday.
The plant, a joint venture between APG and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), is the biggest single megacity coal-powered plant in Canada.
The 1,500-megajoule plant produced 2.5 million megajoules of electricity in 2019.
“The plant is shutting down in 2019 because of the aging of the infrastructure,” said Kevin Anderson, an analyst with energy consulting firm EY.
“It’s the last major megacitres in Canada.”
The St. Lawrence River, which runs through the plant’s footprint, is expected to be the main conduit for power to the area.
The power plant was originally designed to generate electricity from coal, but it has become a net-zero coal-fueled power plant.
The St Lawrence River has become the primary conduit for the countrys largest energy source.
In 2016, the river pumped 2.2 billion megajourles of energy, about the same as the energy output from the nations largest power plant, the coal-burning Fort McMurray Generating Station (FGM).
However, the plant has been on the chopping block for years, with an estimated $1.3 billion in costs for the project to complete.
“They’re not going to build the plants and shut them down and start over,” Anderson said.
“I think this is a major turning point for the entire energy sector.”
The company expects to have no operational operations at the plant by 2022, but Anderson said it is planning to close the plant in 2018, and that the plant would be retired by 2022.
The shutdown will have a ripple effect throughout the province.
“If the St Lawrence is shut down, it will affect other power plants throughout the region,” he said.
The government of the province of Alberta has yet to say how much it is expected cost taxpayers to clean up the river, but said in 2016 that the cost of cleaning up the St-Lawrence would be about $5 million per year.
“We have already lost a significant amount of money to this process because of it,” Anderson explained.
The company is also facing challenges in attracting and retaining staff.
The average age of the workforce at the facility is now 32, compared to 44 when it was originally built, according to a 2014 report from the University of Alberta’s Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
The number of jobs at the project has declined from about 700 in 2013 to around 400 at the end of 2019.
The total capacity of the St.-Lawrence plant has also fallen by nearly 10 per cent since the beginning of the year, as the plant lost about 400 workers, according a recent analysis from the Canadian Energy Research Institute.
“This project is not sustainable for the long term,” said Anderson.
“There’s a lot of capacity built into the St – Lawrence River system, but the plants are not growing fast enough.
It’s not getting the kind of growth in energy it needs to be a net source of energy.”