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Alberta’s electricity grid is expected to fully wean off coal this summer, six years ahead of schedule — a remarkable climbdown from the energy source that 10 years ago provided Albertans with more than half their electricity.

Alberta’s first coal-free hour came on Feb. 2 and lasted 11 hours.

It happened again in early March, with the province’s final two coal plants producing zero energy for nearly 48 hours between March 4 and 6, according to the Alberta Electricity System Operator’s (AESO) metered volume data.

The final step will come this summer when Capital Power’s Genesee 1 and 2 plants finish transitioning two coal-fired plants to natural gas. (The final plant, Genesee 2, is scheduled to shut down at the beginning of June.) As it stands, coal provides a maximum capacity of just 820 megawatts (MW) — less than four per cent of all available generation in Alberta, a steep decline from a decade ago, when coal provided 5,509 MW and 54 per cent of Albertans’ electricity needs.

“It wasn’t long ago that 80 per cent of electricity supply in Alberta came from coal; now we are starting to see hours where there is zero coal-fired generation in the province,” Blake Shaffer, electricity expert and economist at the University of Calgary, said in an email to Postmedia.

Alberta had 18 coal-fired plants in 2016. At the time, Alberta produced more coal pollution than all other Canadian provinces combined.