2012-11-02 at 15:25
Powered up: Local, regional leaders speak out about OPA
Coun. Iain Angus on Friday addresses an emergency meeting of the intergovernmental liaison committee meeting over concerns about the OPA halting the natural gas conversion of the Thunder Bay generating station.
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Ron Nelson isn’t mincing words, calling the Ontario Power Authority’s decision to halt the conversion the Ontario Power Generation plant to natural gas a blunder of the worst kind.
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The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association president also told an emergency meeting of the city’s intergovernmental liaison committee it’s time for the OPA’s board of governors to resign.
“A little out of touch is a mild way to put it,” said Nelson, concerned the region will be left with a power shortage if the plant is ultimately mothballed when the provincial mandate for power generating stations to wean themselves off coal comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
“It’s frankly appalling that the Ontario Energy Board tells the OPA that the plan they have in place is not going to work in Northwestern Ontario. And then we find out today they have suspended the conversion of the Thunder Bay generating station,” Nelson said.
“Somebody’s out of tune, somebody’s out of whack and it’s time that that OPA really start to listen or maybe have some good dialogue with us and tell us exactly how this is going to work.”
Nelson said the closing of the plant – Energy Minister Chris Bentley on Thursday said it’s a temporary suspension while the OPA unveils a plan to deliver energy to the North at a savings of $400 million – puts the Northern Ontario Growth Plan in jeopardy.
The OPA and OPG were in the midst of a power-purchase agreement negotiation when the decision to halt the pipeline was made.
“How do you grow if you don’t have the power to sustain and establish and bring in brand new businesses and keep the businesses that they have here and know that they’re going to have good, clean, reliable power?” Nelson asked.
Mayor Keith Hobbs said the decision flies in the face of everything the region is trying to build, adding the OPA has a made a “horrible mistake.” Hobbs, who said if the plant is closed he’ll insist that the site be fully remediated, is convinced that’s exactly what the OPA is trying to force the OPG to do.
And he wants to know their reasoning.
“I would really like to see the analysis and their study as to how they came about to this. I think there’s something that we’re missing here. I think the Enbridge deal and all that is the driver of this. We’re totally caught off guard by this,” said Hobbs, insisting city leaders were assured by the province at the Good Roads and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conferences that the conversion project would go ahead.
“(Former Energy Minister Brad) Duguid gave a directive to the OPA to get a deal done.”
According to figures supplied the city, the region presently produces about 680 MW of the 702 MW it needs each year through hydro-electric power.
That’s assuming perfect weather. If a drought hits, 306 MW is needed from the generating station, with an additional 20 MW funneled through Atikokan and 150 MW through the East-West tie line, which the province has promised to expand.
By 2016 the projected energy load is 1,065 MW, with 304 MW coming from either the Thunder Bay generating station or the East-West tie-line. Beyond 2016 the demand jumps to 1,323 MW, which without a local generating station would mean about 700 MW of power would need to be imported, likely from Minnesota or Manitoba as well as southern Ontario.
The numbers frighten Coun. Joe Virdiramo, chairman of the IGLC, especially if drought conditions do arise.
“There isn’t going to be enough power, no matter what they say, no matter where it comes from,” he said. “It’s interesting that the government is saying they will provide the power through the East-West line, but that isn’t built. It’s not there yet.”
MPP Bill Mauro said he fully supports the calls of city and regional leaders to keep the conversion process on the table and moving forward.
“We all believe the OPA has gotten this fundamentally wrong and I look forward to continuing the battle,” Mauro said, offering to facilitate a meeting between Bentley and the regional leaders.
Nelson wasn’t sure why the decision was made and said he’s not sure why the OPA never seems to understand the region’s energy needs.
“Maybe they live in an Eiffel Tower in Toronto and really don’t care. The fact of the matter is, it’s a blunder. It’s a mistake plain and simple. The people of Northwestern Ontario deserve better.”
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