Coal to Gas

Read the latest news release on TransAlta’s plan for accelerating the transition to clean power in Alberta


TransAlta has reached agreement with the province of Alberta on two major gas and renewables initiatives:

  • We’ve agreed to collaboratively pursue existing and new renewable electricity development, which for TransAlta includes a potential 600 to 900 MW expansion of our Brazeau hydro facility, using an innovative pumped storage model. Learn more.
  • And we’ve agreed with the province to collaborate on development of a policy framework to convert coal-fired generation to gas-fired generation. Learn more about Coal to Gas below.

You can find more information on the agreements in our news release.

TransAlta is Accelerating its Transition to Cleaner Power

Moving to a low carbon future will involve natural gas. Natural gas will be required as a transition fuel to provide reliable baseload power and to help keep electricity costs competitive as additional renewable power generation is brought online.

Converting a coal plant, or a few coal plants to gas (referred to as coal to gas conversion), will help Alberta achieve a significant reduction in emissions. Conversion offers a realistic and accelerated path forward toward a cleaner energy future.

Accelerating TransAlta’s transition from coal to gas, while ramping up our renewables, including hydro, wind and solar, will become a key competitive advantage. TransAlta has already completed a substantial amount of work on the logistics and timing of plant conversions. We have the option to convert our coal plants to gas earlier, potentially in the early 2020’s. This timeframe will depend on the development (with the provincial and federal governments) of a regulatory framework that will protect new investments and maintain the economic viability of our current plants.

Coal to gas conversion would mean:

  • Lower emissions. Right away. Converting coal plants to gas plants will significantly reduce emissions, including Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Conversion presents an opportunity for Alberta to achieve a meaningful and measurable emissions reduction and is a big step toward achieving environmental objectives. These emissions reductions can be achieved before 2030.
  • An accelerated transition, as conversion can be done quickly. The process of converting a coal plant to a gas plant takes about 18 months, significantly faster than building a new gas plant. Conversions could be completed within the next few years.
  • Value for Albertans. Protection for consumers. Conversion uses existing infrastructure, which means fewer costs than building a new gas plant. These savings create better value for Albertans and mean a lower cost electric system. Conversion to gas also helps maintain reliable electricity supply and helps protect consumers against price spikes and volatility.
  • The stage would be set for further and earlier transition to cleaner power. Converting coal units to gas avoids the need to build large new natural gas plants, which require long operating lives and fixed emissions profiles to be economically viable. As a transition step toward increased renewables, converted coal units require less investment, can serve the needs of the Alberta system for a limited lifespan, and then be retired as we bring more hydro, wind and solar power generation into the system.
  • Helping to protect job and communities. The coal industry employs numerous people in Alberta and these people’s livelihoods are very important to TransAlta. Coal to gas conversion provides the opportunity to maintain some jobs during conversions, to support sector jobs, and allows us to redeploy some of our workforce in the plants or toward renewables growth. Electricity and energy have always been at the heart of the economy in Alberta, therefore any changes in the industry must support our communities. Conversion will also help keep municipal, provincial and federal tax revenues supporting these communities.

For more, read President and CEO Dawn Farrell’s Oct. 19, 2016 and Nov. 29, 2016 statements on coal to gas conversion and TransAlta’s Q3 2016 Results Conference Call transcript from Nov. 4.

“Alberta is going to a 30% renewables standard by 2030. To that end, Alberta will need several plants like ours to back renewables up… and provide low-cost baseload and backup power to ensure system reliability and the kind of pricing we need for a resilient economy.” – Dawn Farrell, TransAlta President and CEO