Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
Ontario’s energy minister is “being irresponsible” by not stepping in and ordering the conversion of the Thunder Bay Generating Station to natural gas, the city’s mayor said Monday.
Northwest leaders are trying to convince the government that the coal-fired plant must be converted to burn natural gas if the region’s energy needs are to be met.
The government put a hold on the project last fall after the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) said there are cheaper ways to meet power needs, including expanding the east-west tieline, which moves power between Northern and southern Ontario.
The province has prohibited the burning of coal for energy in Ontario after Dec. 31, 2014.
However, Mayor Keith Hobbs said, the city’s Energy Task Force (ETF) has done its homework and proven that the OPA and Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) are “out to lunch” with their estimations of the region’s power requirements.
“I believe this is stalling at its best,” Hobbs said of the government’s handling of the generating station matter. “We need to get political and we need to send a message to (Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli) that that plant needs to be kept open and converted, plain and simple.
“We’ve gone on with this long enough,” Hobbs said.
“My concerns are January, where families are going to be without power. January this year in Thunder Bay was brutally cold, and we can’t afford blackouts and brownouts. The minister is being irresponsible by not coming to the table and getting that conversion done.”
The good news is, the OPA is changing its tune somewhat, ETF co-chairman Coun. Iain Angus said Monday.
“Certainly on the load side, they do now recognize the mining potential in Northwestern Ontario is very, very real,” Angus said after making a presentation on the subject to the city’s inter-governmental liaison committee.
“They have adjusted their figures once again in recognition of the information we’ve been able to provide them.
“Fundamentally, that’s the key part, because if we weren’t able to convince them that the loads are here, it’d be even harder to convince them that we needed our own generation, such as the Thunder Bay Generating Station.
“That’s the biggest hurdle that we had to cross,” said Angus.
He encouraged the city and groups like the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce to pressure the government to convert the plant.
“Those tend to be the voices of the Northwest,” Angus said.
“It’ll be up to them to develop their own strategies around how best to convince Minister Chiarelli and (Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne) as to taking the right steps for Northwestern Ontario.”