Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley met with local officials on Jan. 17, 2013.
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THUNDER BAY -- Coun. Iain Angus is concerned there might come a time when the city cannot fulfill its own power needs.
That concern follows a meeting between Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley and local delegates. The Energy Task Force had requested a meeting with Bentley to discuss the reported by the Ontario Power Authority on mothballing the city’s coal-fired plant, potentially saving $400 million.
The discussions focused on the topic of the Thunder Bay coal-fired generating station and the decision to halt the conversion to natural gas.
“In terms of the natural gas pipeline, two years is very tight and we’ve been told that it can’t be done,” Angus said, who is also the chair of the Energy Task Force.
“So there is going to be a gap between the end of coal on Dec. 31, 2014, and let’s say mid-2015, and we’re concerned about whether or not we’ll have the energy that we will need at that point in time.
"That’s part of the discussion we’re going to have with the OPA. They’ve agreed and said we will have the power we need but it’s now a question of how do we get it.”
Angus said they want OPA to assume mines in the area will open as scheduled.
Although mines have promised that they would be up and running in the past, Angus felt confident in what the Community Economic Development Commission was providing.
The Energy Task Force and the OPA did agree on a few items including supply but couldn’t find common ground on the amount of production from the Atikokan Generation Station and the power to import from Manitoba and Minnesota.
Angus said they need to find realistic solutions.
“We can’t build a mine on might,” he said. “We need to build it on facts and hard numbers.”
With the threat of an election looming, Angus reassured that they would work with all parties.
Bentley, who hasn’t seen the OPA report on the coal fire plant conversion, said the meeting was to get all the information necessary to make a decision later down the road.
The success of the Northwest means having the best information possible, he said.
The province had ordered all power generating stations to wean themselves off coal by 2014. Bentley said everyone will be working hard to get a conclusion within the next few months.
“I was determined that we not come in with a conclusion,” he said. “We didn’t come in with a report from the OPA because I said ‘we need to hear in detail from the Energy Task Force and the experts from the region’. We’re not leaving with a conclusion because they have more work to do.”
Mayor Keith Hobbs has been vocal about his desire to meet with the energy minister on the coal-fired plant issue and said he was satisfied with their first discussion.
Hobbs knew that they wouldn’t be getting an answer at the meeting but he said progress was made.
“The government is engaged, OPA is now engaged and we’re all on the same page that we’re going to come up with a solution,” he said.
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