Parker Gallant: Thunder Bay, gored with the Wynne

(November 24, 2013) Seen by the Liberals and Environmental Defence (ED) as a breath taking moment for Ontario, the high priest of Global Warming, Al Gore arrived in Toronto to heap praise on the Premier and the Ontario Liberal Party at an event at MaRS Discovery District on November 21, 2013.

Gore was quoted in the media as he declared: “To solve the climate crisis, we need people, provinces and countries to show the way forward towards a coal-free, sustainable future. Ontario has distinguished itself as a leader in Canada and around the world,” said former U.S. Vice-President Gore. “It is heartening to see the tremendous progress that has been made here and it is my hope that others will quickly follow suit.”

On November 15, 2013 just a few days before the Gore visit, Energy Minister, Bob Chiarelli, announced that the Thunder Bay generating station was to be converted to biomass claiming it is a “renewable” fuel. The announcement, on the surface, looks contrived to ensure that Wynne and ED could claim Ontario would be “coal” free when Gore arrived. The point about biomass being “renewable” is being challenged by a group of investors in the US who collectively manage $100 billion in assets and have complained to the SEC.

There is also concern expressed by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce as noted in a news item in which carried this statement from Chamber President Charla Robinson:

“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”.

One concludes from the foregoing that; biomass is not environmentally friendly and conversion from coal to biomass will reduce the ability of the Thunder Bay region to supply reliable electricity power should the “Ring of Fire” projects firm up in the next few years. That didn’t stop the Liberals from continuing their campaign of misinformation however as an exchange in the Legislature discloses. Energy Minister Chiarelli’s response to a question from Liberal MPP Bill Mauro on November 19 about expanding on the decision to convert Atikokan to biomass brought this response:

The conversion to advanced biomass is another step in reducing dirty coal burning in Ontario and puts our province on the leading edge of worldwide biomass research. The continued operation of this plant will ensure that Thunder Bay has the power it needs to support future economic expansion.

It is obvious a plant that will cost ratepayers tens and possibly hundreds of millions of hard earned dollars, capable of running at 2% of it’s rated capacity does absolutely nothing to “ensure that Thunder Bay has the power it needs” or do anything as a “step in reducing dirty coal burning”.

It is important to recall the Thunder Bay conversion had been announced three years earlier when Brad Duguid sat in the Energy Minister’s chair and released the Long-Term Energy Plan. Duguid followed that up with an August 17, 2011 “directive” to the OPA instructing them to negotiate the conversion to gas with OPG. That directive from Duguid fell apart as an November 1, 2012 article from the CBC announced OPG had “halted conversion” of Thunder Bay to gas and faced a bill of $5 million from Union Gas for their work on a pipeline to bring the gas to the site.

As yet another demonstration of coincidence the Financial Post carried an article by Terence Corcoran a day before the Gore/Wynne “love in”. The article disputed the role that wind and solar played in reducing carbon emissions and carried this quote from energy expert, Steve Alpin:

Mr. Aplin says the cause of the decline “is not going to be what they claim.” Carbon emissions dropped off, Mr. Aplin said in an interview, because of the return of the nuclear plants. Mr. Gore and Ms. Wynne “are going to say that it’s from wind and solar, and it’s not.”

In the background lurks concerns of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), our grid operator; and the flexibility they get from those miscast but flexible dinosaurs of energy; coal plants!  IESO earlier this year pointed out their needs to OPG of the TB coal plant in a document OPG provided to the OEB containing the following:

On January 7, 2013, the IESO responded to OPG indicating that de-registration of Thunder Bay GS would likely have an unacceptable impact on the reliability of the IESO-controlled grid, and that they were prepared to enter into negotiations for a RMR Agreement that would ensure the continued operation of at least one Thunder Bay GS unit.

As a  result OPG applied to the Ontario Energy Board for an extension to maintain the facility for a further year and the extension was granted.

A day before Al Gore lauded Wynne’s accomplishments, Thunder Bay was again sideswiped as Cliffs Natural Resources announced they would indefinitely suspend their $3.3 billion chromite project in Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” which would have created much needed jobs in Northwestern Ontario.

No doubt Cliffs provided the Liberal Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle with advance warning of their announcement having been in discussions with his ministry for some time working to advance a solution related to site access which the Ministry had failed to resolve.

A Ministry press release of May 9, 2012 had promised “Thousands of Jobs Coming to Northern Ontario” right after Cliffs announced the $3.3 billion project and after being assured they would be able to obtain cheap electricity for the planned $1.8 billion refinery. One month after the Cliffs announcement, Energy Minister, Chris Bentley issued a press release promising a program that would offer a “New Industrial Electricity Incentive Program To Help Attract Investment

This settled the possibility of Quebec or Manitoba securing the refinery with their lower industrial rates.  NDP MPP Howard Hampton in a February 22, 2011 article in the Sudbury Star pointed out that the annual electricity bill for the refinery in Ontario (at that time) would be $63 million but only $26 million in Manitoba and $33.5 million in Quebec. The Bentley “program” subsequently became known as Stream 1 under the OPA; eliminating the cost of the Global Adjustment (approximately $50 million annually) for the refinery which would than be absorbed by the rest of Ontario’s ratepayers.

Now if the reader followed the chronology of the above Liberal actions they will appreciate the orchestration that went into their “campaign of misinformation” and how it attempted to cover up the costs caused by the drive to eliminate coal generation and the price to Ontario’s ratepayers.

While “Gone with the Wind” is regarded as a civil war drama “Gored with the Wynne” will be seen as an Ontario tragedy. All that remains is for Premier Wynne to declare:

Frankly, Ontario, I don’t give a damn!


November 23, 2010 Ontario Press release from Brad Duguid announcing Thunder Bay conversion to gas and included in the LTEP.

February 22, 2011 Sudbury Star quotes Howard Hampton who notes Annual Electricity bill in Ontario for the Cliffs refinery would be $63 million but only $26 million in Manitoba and $33.5 in Quebec.

August 17, 2011 Brad Duguid directive to the OPA instructs them to negotiate an agreement with the OPG for conversion of TB to gas.

May 9, 2012 Ontario Press release from Ministry of Mines states thousands of jobs coming to Northern Ontario after Cliffs Resources announces chromite project of $3.3 billion with $1.8 billion of that slated for a refinery.

June 12, 2012 Ontario Press release from Energy Minister, Chris Bentley announces “New Industrial Electricity Program” to help attract investments

November 1, 2012 OPG suspends conversion of TB to gas and Union Gas wants $5 million for monies spent towards the construction of a gas pipeline to the site of the plant.

January 7, 2013 IESO provides memo to OPG stating they need TB to continue running with coal to insure reliability for the grid.

November 15, 2013 Ontario Press release from Energy Minister Chiarelli advising TB will be converted to biomass.

November 20, 2013 Energy Expert is quoted in Financial Post article stating;  “Carbon emissions dropped off, Mr. Aplin said in an interview, because of the return of the nuclear plants. Mr. Gore and Ms. Wynne “are going to say that it’s from wind and solar, and it’s not.”

November 20, 2013 Two Liberal MPPs, Mauro and Gravelle hold press conference in Thunder Bay announcing the conversion of the plant and the President of the local Chamber of Commerce expressing concern that it will only operate at 2% of its rated capacity.

November 20, 2013 Cliffs Resources announces they are indefinitely suspending the $3.3 billion project.

November 21, 2013 Al Gore praises Premier Wynne for shutting down coal plants in Ontario.

Parker Gallant is a retired bank executive and a former director of Energy Probe Research Foundation. As with all independent bloggers on this site, Parker views do not necessarily reflect those of Energy Probe.

This entry was posted in Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Coal, Costs, Benefits and Risks, Electricity, Manitoba, Nuclear Power, Power Generation in Ontario, Reforming Ontario's Electrical Generation Sector, Renewables, Utility Reform and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Parker Gallant: Thunder Bay, gored with the Wynne

  1. Pingback: - Ban Coal Burning in Ontario - Al Gore

  2. Pingback: The never-ending Thunder Bay power plant conversion | WCO | Wind Concerns Ontario

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