Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thunder Bay Decision Generating Absurdity

Thunder Bay is home to the only coal-fired generating station in Ontario not currently slated to be closed by the end of 2013.  There have been moves towards converting the plant to operate on natural gas, but the latest moves towards that were halted some months ago.
The Chronicle-Journal "The Newspaper of the Northwest" reports that local politicians are, predictably, taking an IMBY (in my backyard) stance toward keeping it's infrequently utilized local generating station.

‘We’re going to be short power’ | The Chronicle-Journal
The city has maintained that converting the plant is the only way to provide enough reliable power for the region, especially considering what many say is a looming mining industry boom.
The timeline is tight, too. The province has said all coal-fired power generation in Ontario must end by the end of 2014...
“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to reach an agreement,...But if not, we have the option of going back to the minister of energy to say to him, ‘look, we’ve done our best to reach an agreement. It’s not possible. They’re still sticking with their scenario, which we don’t think will work, and we want you, minister, and your cabinet to issue a directive that the Thunder Bay (generating station) shall remain in operation, and the conversion to natural gas will begin.’”
The OPA has said an expansion to the east-west tieline — which moves power between Northern and southern Ontario — will meet most of the region’s power needs. Any extra power required can be bought from Manitoba, the OPA has said.
The OPA is the Ontario Power Authority, which was slated to be collapsed into/merged with the IESO - the Independent Electricity System Operator - in legislation that died when the legislature was prorogued last fall.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) owns the Thunder Bay Generating station.

OPG's 2012 financial reporting said this about the plant:

OPG requested deregistration of the plant in November 2012. In January 2013, the Independent Electricity System Operator (“IESO”) determined that at least one unit is required in Thunder Bay to maintain reliability of the IESOcontrolled grid. Accordingly, OPG and the IESO entered into negotiations for a Reliability Must Run contract covering the period from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013.   The contract has been executed by OPG and the IESO and is subject to OEB approval.
So publicly-owned OPG is not allowed to close this coal-fired plant while it awaits the word of the regulator on how much money it will lose in keeping open the plant at the direction of Ontario's system operator, with plans to refurbish the plant to run on natural gas having been recently cancelled, possibly to come back dependent on the findings of the Ontario Power Authority - an organization tasked, when created, with producing a long-term plan for Ontario's sector as coal-fired generation was removed from Ontario ... by 2007.


  1. While the Atikokan plant is to be converted to waste wood (pellets) by 2014 for $200 M, this must not have been considered to be an option for Thunder Bay GS. As you may recall Atikokan suffered a dust explosion when filling a former coal bunker with wood pellets as part of the testing Dec 1, 2008. The plant is to consume 90000 tons of dried wood pellets per year: 10 truck loads per day, 5 days a week. Lennox has been converted from heavy oil to oil/gas. Today neither Lennox, Thunder Bay nor Atikokan have been generating. Actually, I don't know when they last were.

    Keeping these plants staffed and cold/available for infrequent use must present OPG with significant costs.

    Grid connections to Manitoba Hydro were also touted as the future supply of power for NW Ontario. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems to be to the proponents of an initiative.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
    I looked up some figures:
    Thunder Bay did generate as recently as the 20th, but the annual capacity factors have been very small: 2-4% for Thunder Bay and Atikokan, and 1% for Lennox (the OPG 2012 financial report announced a 10-year contract had been signed with the OPA for Lennox, which previously was funded on a year-to-year basis).