Closing Ontario’s coal-fired power did little to reduce pollution
As the federal government moves to phase out coal by 2030, the Fraser Institute it to heed the province’s example.
TORONTO — Closing Ontario’s coal-fired power plants had very little effect on reducing air pollution while helping to fuel skyrocketing energy costs, concludes a Fraser Institute study.
It looked at air pollution changes from 2005 to 2014 in Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa
involving monthly average levels of fine particulates (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ground-level ozone (O3).
The public policy think tank found the coal phase-out had no effect on nitrogen oxide levels – a component of smog – which were strongly affected by reduction in US NOx emissions, resulting in only a small, statistically insignificant reduction in fine particulates, a common measure of air pollution.
There was a statistically significant reduction in peak O3 levels from the coal phase-out, but it was offset by a significant increase associated with natural gas plant emissions.
The Fraser Institute contends that had the province completed its modernization of the coal-fired plants instead of shutting them down, fine particulate reductions of the same size could have been achieved at a much lower cost.
It says in 2005, all electricity power generation – including coal – comprised just 0.7% of fine particulate emissions in the province, while residential wood-burning fireplaces contributed 20 times more fine particulate emissions.
“Policymakers in Ottawa should note how Ontario’s coal phase-out failed to achieve its stated goals as they promise to impose the same failed strategy nationally,” said Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph, Fraser Institute senior fellow, and co-author of the report.
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