In third paragraph, Ontario Minister of Energy Brad Duguid corrects statement to "these closures Friday" instead of "these closures today", correcting date of closures.
* OPG to shut 2,000 MW of coal generation Friday
* Ontario to shut all coal plants by 2014
* OPG to convert some coal plants to biomass
By Scott DiSavino
NEW YORK, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Ontario will shut about 2,000 megawatts of coal-fired power generation on Friday to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions to combat global warming and improve health.
These plant closures mark nearly a decade of effort to close the province's coal plants and move toward a cleaner energy future.
"A coal-free Ontario will reduce air pollution and these closures Friday bring us that much closer to replacing coal-fired generation by 2014. Ontario will be one of the first jurisdictions in the world to move from a past of dirty coal generation to a future of clean energy," Ontario Minister of Energy Brad Duguid told Reuters in an email.
Together the units, each capable of producing about 500 MW, could produce enough power for about 2 million Ontario homes.
Ontario plans to shut all 6,400 MW of coal-fired generation in the province by 2014.
Coal-fired generation is the single largest source of air pollution in Ontario and eliminating it from the supply mix will be the largest climate change initiative in Canada, the government said.
To replace the coal-fired generators, energy companies, including OPG, have spent billions to build new natural gas-fired plants and wind farms, expand hydro facilities and return to service nuclear reactors shut years ago.
Since 2003, when Dalton McGuinty became Ontario's premier, the Energy Ministry said more than 8,000 MW of new cleaner energy has entered service, including 1,400 MW of renewables, and more than 5,000 km (3,106 miles) of new and upgraded transmission and distribution power lines.
And, as more plants enter service over the next few years, the remaining coal plants can retire or be converted to burn biomass. Earlier this month, OPG said it would convert the 215-MW Atikokan coal plant to biomass. [ID:nBw085704a]
There are four coal-fired power plants in Ontario all owned by OPG - Nanticoke and Lambton in the southern part of the province and Thunder Bay and Atikokan in the north.
Ontario started down this path in the early 2000s.
In 2003, new Ontario Premier McGuinty reaffirmed an election promise to stop burning coal to generate electricity in the province by 2007 to reduce emissions of sulfur and nitrogen for health reasons and carbon dioxide to combat global warming.
In 2005, however, the province said the 2007 target was unrealistic and the Nanticoke plant would have to remain in service until 2009 because it was needed to maintain power grid reliability.
In 2006, Ontario pushed back the schedule to close the plants until 2014 after determining some of the units would still be needed for reliability.
But, the province decided it could shut some units - Lambton 1 and 2 and Nanticoke 3 and 4 - four years ahead of schedule on Oct. 1, 2010 since enough other plants were now available to keep the grid stable. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)