ATCO Electric is applying to the Alberta Utilities Commission to convert the Sheerness Power plant from coal to gas.
A Notice of Application appeared in the January 30 edition of The Drumheller Mail. The application is to convert two of its existing generating units at the power plant from coal-fuelled to natural gas-fuelled. It states there will be no change to the generating capacity or the boundary of the plant, and the infrastructure would largely remain the same.
It’s a mixed blessing for Mayor of Hanna, Chris Warwick.
“It does reduce the number of employees significantly, obviously there are 100 jobs on the coal side that will be done, and the guys working on the coal side in the generation part,” he said. “So it is still a pretty significant impact as far as employees go, but it is good news with our water source being from the generation station.”
The Alberta Government Climate Leadership Plan called for the phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation by 2030. In 2017, ATCO indicated it planned its natural gas transition by 2020. This application is the first step to that happening at Sheerness.
In 2017 the Alberta Government introduced the Coal Community Transition Fund to help communities affected by the shutdowns to diversify. Warwick says there has been good work being done in the community to look at new ideas.
“We are still moving on some of the projects. Everything takes a snail’s pace, we are trying to get some funding for some large projects… of course, we are getting into an election and that changes the dynamic a little bit with what is happening.”
Another change he has heard is there is a possibility the plant will be sold.
“I think they have had some possible suitors for it,” he said.
If the ATCO application goes through, Warwick says they have been told the spring of 2022 is the latest date for it to be converted.
“There are a lot of things that have to happen, they have to secure the gas and they will have to run it to the power plant because they are going to need a significant amount,” he said.
Residents that feel they may be affected by the application can provide input to the AUC before a decision is made. Those wishing to participate can contact the AUC or go to ww.auc.ab.ca and review the information under “Have Your Say” and under “Review Process”.