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Government hires facilitator to help phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030

The government has hired a facilitator to work with coal fired electricity generation owners to fast-track the phase out of coal-fired electricity in the province by 2030.

Facilitator will be paid $600,000 between now and September

A faster phase-out of coal-fired plants is at the top of Premier Rachel Notley's climate-change strategy for Alberta. (Canadian Press)

The government has hired a facilitator to work with power generation owners in the province to fast-track the phase-out of coal-fired electricity by 2030.

Terry Boston has been hired for six months at a cost of $600,000. He recently retired as president of PJM Interconnection, the second-largest centrally dispatched power system in the world.
Deron Bilous explains that Terry Boston is tasked with helping Alberta's power generation become coal-free by 2030. 1:24

Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said part of the reason for the hiring is that under Boston's leadership, PJM phased out  26,000 megawatts of coal generation, far more than Alberta's 16,000 megawatt grid.

"Our priority is to get the best deal for Albertans," Bilous said. "We know that this is money well spent."

Boston will be responsible for bringing forward recommendations to the government on how to transition to cleaner sources of power without sacrificing reliability or driving up costs.

Bilous expects Boston to help the government reach a deal with coal-fired electricity generators by the time his term is up in September.

In 2014, 55 per cent of Alberta's power came from coal.

Under federal coal phase-out regulations, 12 of the province's 18 coal-fired generation plants would be shut down by 2030. The provincial Climate Leadership Plan aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from those remaining plants.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the government should not be moving faster than the federal government, especially since the costs will be downloaded onto Alberta consumers.

"I think it's very frightening at a time when we have an economy that is so sluggish," Jean said.

Bilous said he is working with communities that will likely be affected by job losses as plants are closed down.

"They're obviously worried about the families and workers in their communities and how this is going to affect them," Bilous said.

He said he met with leaders in those communities, and will have more details on what the government plans to do to help ease the transition in a few weeks.

Bilous and other cabinet ministers heard concerns about the coal phase-out and the carbon tax from rural reeves and councillors attending the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties Wednesday. 

"The early shutdown will cost us $224 million in revenue," said Parkland County Coun. Jackie McCuaig. "There will be many lost jobs. How are we going to make up for this?"

Bilous said it was his job to work with affected communities. He said the previous Progressive Conservative government didn't have a plan to help communities facing job losses due to the federal coal plant shutdown. 

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