THUNDER BAY -- The Thunder Bay Generating Station is officially off coal.
The power plant burned its last scoop of coal April 8 and Ontario Power Generation's regional plant manager Chris Fralick said conversion activities at the station are underway.
"We're proud of our history of over 50 years providing reliable and safe electricity from Thunder Bay (Generating Station). While this closes the chapter on coal, we're proud of the past and we are looking forward to a greener future as we progress towards our advanced biomass conversion,” he said.
About 45 employees received layoff notices in January, which take effect in one year.
Fralick said in that year employees have the option of leaving the organization or a job will be found for them within OPG that they may have to relocate for.
While the end of coal is a milestone for the station, Energy Task Force co-chairman Iain Angus said it isn't one to be celebrated.
"The fact we're losing 45 jobs to southern Ontario with a $4-million payroll hit to the community of Thunder Bay is not something to celebrate," he said, noting it's hypocritical for the the provincial government to crow about the event because they're still buying power from jurisdictions that's produced with coal.
The energy task force is worried the advanced biomass conversion will not meet the region's energy needs when nearby mines go online in the coming years and Angus said they believe the plant should be converted to natural gas, which will give it the ability to produce more than 300 megawatts of power; their plan also calls for no job losses.
The original conversion of the gas from coal to natural gas was halted in November 2012. The future of the plant was up in the air until November of last year when the province announced the plant will begin burning advanced biomass by 2015.
But Angus said there is no silver lining in this scenario.
The energy task force met with all the energy agencies two weeks ago in Toronto with the exception of the Ontario Energy Board.
"They are firm in their belief they know what's good for the Northwest," he said, adding they have no specifics in how they are going to provide the necessary power if northern mines go online.
"We're going to continue to push the government and the agencies to make sure they finally recognize what our needs are and the best way to meet those needs," Angus said.