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Coal-to-biomass conversion could help Alberta to meet green goals, researchers suggest

Alberta is in a prime position to convert its coal-burning plants to biomass fuel in order to meet its climate targets at a low cost by using existing coal-firing infrastructure.

This is the argument four University of Victoria researchers are making in a Policy Options article titled: Refuelling Alberta coal plants with biomass

"Biomass, which today accounts for only 3% of power generation in the province, could enable Alberta to fuel the transition to renewable power while providing flexibility and firm capacity to maintain system reliability,” the report stated.

According to the report, British Columbia and Alberta are home to large forestry industries, which generate enough forest residue to fill over 7,000 Olympic sized swimming pools every year. As this residue has limited merchant value, most is either burned to avoid forest fires or left on site to decay.

However, a portion of this residue could be used to fuel coal-fired plants in Alberta that will otherwise be forced into early retirement by 2030. Although some modifications are necessary for these plants to handle biomass, the costs of these modifications are relatively low compared with the costs of building new generating units.