THUNDER BAY – Business – The recent announcement of the conversion of the Thunder Bay Generating Station to advanced
biomass does little to address the uncertainty of energy supply for the business community in Thunder Bay and region. The good news is that keeping the station operational for five years will retain jobs at the plant, generate much needed taxes for city coffers and allow expansion at a later date. The bad news is that the plant will be transitioned to a “peaking plant” and will only be turned on when energy demand is greater than the supply available through other sources (ie: the east- west transmission line, hydraulic generation, etc).
The Thunder Bay Generating Station’s approved fuel contract will allow the station to run at only two percent of capacity. Currently, the plant can produce up to 306MW of energy; however, after the conversion, maximum generation will top out at 150MW with restrictions on the amount of fuel available. The bottom line is that while the lights will be on for 365 days, the plant can only run at full power for 7.3 days each year.
The Energy Task Force’s research indicates a shortage of at least 200MW and as high as 850MW should a drought impact hydraulic generation capacity. Additional questions remain regarding where the advanced biomass will come from and whether or not the required 15,000 tonnes per year is sufficient to generate local jobs and innovation in the forest industry.
Availability of reliable energy is a key component to economic growth and is vital to the development and expansion of mining and forestry across the region. Business owners and corporate shareholders are reluctant to invest where they cannot be sure that their needs will be met. Business needs to see a plan in order to warrant future financial outlays. This five-year holding pattern does not offer the energy supply stability that is required to stimulate investment.
The Chamber of Commerce will continue to advocate to the Ontario Government to ensure that the Northwest region has sufficient reliable power to meet its economic requirements and development needs.
Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce