Common Voice Northwest Energy Task Force Welcomes Ontario’s Commitment to Biomass Generation

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Iain Angus - Common Voice Northwest
Iain Angus

Thunder Bay – The Chair of Common Voice Northwest’s Energy Task Force says last week’s announcement in the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review that the province is “proposing to fund the above-market costs of near-term re-contracting or extensions of existing biomass electricity generators in Northern Ontario” is a positive move by the Ontario Government.

“This announcement is especially important for Resolute Forest Products and the Atikokan Biomass Generating Station as their current biomass fueled Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) expire in 2023 and 2024 respectively” said Chair Iain Angus.

“Without the operation of the Atikokan Generating Station, the Northwest will not be able to meet the anticipated growth in energy requirements over the next decade. Not only is it essential that the Power Purchase Agreements be renewed but the full capacity of the Atikokan generating station must be realized by increasing the fuel supply contract as well as contracting for an increase in output from Thunder Bays’ Resolute mill.

In addition, the renewal of the agreement with Resolute FP will not only continue their supply of approximately 40 MW to the grid but will ensure that over 650,000 tones of waste fibre remain diverted from a landfill – keeping 7,500 truckloads off Thunder Bay roads.

“According to a recent projection of electrical loads prepared by the Independent Electrical System Operator (IESO) the region will be short between 102 and 139 MW between 2022 and 2030 under drought conditions, something we are currently experiencing,” said Angus. The Atikokan GS and the Resolute Forest Products Biomass Generator contribute approximately 90 MW of power to the grid. [See ETF Chart below]

The Atikokan GS has an annual supply contract of 90,000 tons of wood pellets. At 50 MW the plant can run for 100 days 24/7. In order to meet the projected demand in the region to supply various mining projects the Atikokan GS needs to operate at full capacity sending 200 MW into the grid – an increase of 150MW. In addition to the benefit to the mines and the communities that hosts them, there will be significant benefits to Atikokan and Thunder Bay. The current 90,000 tons of pellets are split equally between Atikokan’s BioPower and Resolute FP’s sawmill in Thunder Bay. The additional production at both will result in an increase of operating jobs as well as transportation positions.

As was noted in the Common Voice Northwest Energy Task Force submission in response to the Government of Ontario’s Draft Forest Biomass Action Plan:

“Biomass PPAs reduce carbon emissions and provide an alternative to landfilling wood waste – 7,700 truckloads/year in the case of Resolute alone.  Biomass PPAs support the growth and prosperity of the mining sector; ash from the process provides needed nutrients for farmland; and harvesting dry woody material reduces forest fire risk. Biomass PPAs also increase the reliability of the electrical grid in Northwestern Ontario, support the provincial grid during peak periods, and of course contribute to provincial stumpage revenue and reforestation trust funds.”

The Energy Task Force agrees with the statement in the Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review that the continuation of the two contracts “will create good jobs in the North and support the forest sector and forest workers” concluded Angus.