3.0 Motivation for Project Pioneer

The global requirements for energy are provided by a diverse portfolio of fuels. Coal is the world's most abundant fossil fuel and the single-largest input into electricity generation, fueling approximately 40% of the world's electricity. Coal's abundance, broad geographic distribution and comparatively low and stable cost means that it delivers affordable electricity to billions of people worldwide.

In the western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, coal is an economically-important energy resource. In particular, Alberta holds 33.5 gigatonnes or 70% of Canada's coal reserves. In fact, while Alberta has become widely known for its oil sands, Alberta's coal contains more than twice the energy of all the province's other nonrenewable energy resources including oil sands, conventional oil, and natural gas. More than half of Alberta's electricity generation is fired by coal. At the current rate of extraction, Alberta's coal reserves would supply the province with electricity for the next 1,000 years. Coal is a low-cost fuel that plays a major role in keeping power prices at reasonable levels and in preventing power shortages and reliability problems. Thus, coal is a critical resource for Alberta's and Canada's long-term prosperity.

In order to ensure energy security and affordability, it is important to maintain diversification of the fuel mix and to keep coal as a major pillar of energy supply. However, coal is also responsible for most of the world's CO2 emissions. Therefore, a valuable global opportunity exists to identify, develop and implement technologies to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The motivation for Pioneer was built on the foundation of the related imperatives of:

  • Combating climate change by reducing GHG emissions into the atmosphere; and
  • Ensuring a sustainable supply of clean, affordable energy and, particularly, ensuring a future for Alberta's coal reserves as a low-cost, environmentally responsible form of power generation.

In the western Canadian context, these global trends are particularly significant for electricity generation, as coal is both the dominant fuel source and a major contributor to GHG emissions.