Conversion of Ontario's Coal Stations to Use Advanced Biomass is Good for Ontario

TORONTO, Nov. 18, 2013 /CNW/ - The Ontario Energy Minister's recent announcement to convert the Thunder Bay Generating Station (GS) to advanced biomass is a step in the right direction and will deliver on plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions says the Power Workers' Union (PWU).

For some time, the PWU has promoted the environmental and economic benefits of using domestically sourced, renewable, carbon-neutral biomass as a fuel in Ontario's former coal stations. Countries like Denmark and Sweden have been using biomass fuel to help reduce GHG emissions, create jobs and improve energy security.

"Europe's electricity sector has been benefitting from the use of carbon-neutral biomass, much of it imported from Canada, for decades, said Don MacKinnon, PWU President. "Ontario's vast farm and forest sourced biomass—wood wastes, agricultural residues and purpose grown crops—provides our province with a unique energy advantage," he added.

Converting Ontario's coal stations to use 100 per cent biomass or using it along with natural gas delivers many benefits for Ontarians.  Unlike intermittent wind and solar generation, biomass generated electricity can be relied upon at times of peak demand and when the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining. The cost of conversion is a much cheaper option than building new natural gas plants and recycles existing provincially-owned generation and transmission assets while helping to reduce Ontario's dependence on imported fossil fuels.

MacKinnon noted that the conversion plans for Atikokan GS and Thunder Bay GS from coal to biomass is great news for those supportive host communities too.  It helps sustain existing economic benefits and jobs while creating new employment and business opportunities including wood pellet production plants to supply the stations.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has received a five-year contract for the Thunder Bay Generating Station to generate electricity using this world leading technology. Modifications to the plant will begin in 2014 with operations expected to commence in 2015.

The PWU also recognizes OPG's research and development work that has helped verify and support the Minister's decision.  In 2009, OPG developed a Biomass/Repowering Plan for the Atikokan, Thunder Bay, Lambton and Nanticoke stations.  OPG undertook cost/benefit analyses and commissioned independent studies to demonstrate the sustainability and economic and GHG benefits of this program.  One study estimated that the repowering of these stations would create 3,500 jobs and contribute $600 million annually to Ontario's economy.   OPG also completed successful test operations at these stations.  The successful first-of-its-kind 100 per cent advanced biomass test was completed at the Thunder Bay facility in September of this year.

Other stakeholders from the province's agricultural and forestry sectors have also worked diligently to demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of biomass.  As a result of these collective efforts, the potential benefits of converting some of the coal units at Nanticoke and Lambton were recognized in the province's 2010 Long-Term Energy Plan.

"Existing analyses clearly show that Ontario can realize even more benefits by converting units at the Nanticoke and Lambton stations to biomass and natural gas, concludes MacKinnon.  "And that's why we will continue advocate for these conversions."

The Power Workers' Union (PWU) represents the majority of employees in Ontario's electricity production and delivery sector. The PWU has promoted and contributed to the development of sound electricity policy and planning for more than 60 years to ensure a robust and sustainable electricity system and clean, affordable electricity for Ontario consumers.

SOURCE Power Workers' Union

For further information:

John Sprackett, Staff Officer, President's Office
244 Eglinton Ave. E., Toronto ON M4P 1K2
jsprackett@pwu.ca 416-322-4787