Mayor Dennis Brown of Atikokan is relieved a power purchase agreement between Ontario Power Generation and the Ontario Power Authority has been signed, meaning the conversion of the Atikokan Generating Station from coal to biomass can officially go ahead.
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Mayor Dennis Brown says Atikokan residents are breathing a collective sigh of relief.
On Thursday the province announced the final piece of the puzzle to convert the town’s coal-powered generating station to biomass, confirming a power purchase agreement between the plant operator, Ontario Power Generation, and the provincial power regulator, the Ontario Power Authority.
Brown said the deal took much longer than anticipated, leaving some in the community to wonder if it would ever get done.
The agreement, deemed necessary as a cost-recovery method, was necessitated when the province dictated that all of Ontario’s coal-fired plants had to close, putting 200 direct and indirect jobs in jeopardy in Atikokan.
The agreement also includes a price point for the power, an amount that was not disclosed at Thursday’s news conference.
“Now this provides certainty for the residents and businesses of Atikokan. This is something we’ve been hoping for, have been wanting, for the last couple of years.
“This all started back in 2003 and now it’s finally, finally finished.”
The conversion, expected to be completed in 2014, will cost about $200 million and create upward of 200 temporary jobs throughout the construction process. The plant originally opened in 1985.
“It reassures that the plant keeps going and we get the tax base for the Town of Atikokan. It’s about a third of our tax base,” Brown said, noting a tremendous infrastructure shortage in his community, with roads, sidewalks and sewers in dire need of upgrades and repairs.
“It only made good sense to make use of that asset for the province of Ontario. And, as I said too, it will create jobs in the forest industry. Someone’s going to have to harvest the wood and convert it into wood pellets, and we’re hopeful that some of this might happen in Atikokan.”
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay-Atikokan), said it’s been a decade-long struggle to ensure the generating station remained relevant.
He apologized for the delay.
“It took longer than obviously I wished it would have, but it’s important to remember that this is the first time this has ever happened,” Mauro said.
“There’s never been an energy-generating facility in Ontario converted to burn biomass and it’s a little more complex than perhaps everyone anticipated it might be. There were more things to get done, but at the end of the day it’s occurred and we’re all very happy about it.”
Mauro reiterated the biomass used to fuel the plant will be generated in Ontario.
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