Nfld. & Labrador

U.K. timber business has sights set on Northern Peninsula

A renewable energy and forestry management company based in the United Kingdom is looking to set up on the Northern Peninsula, bringing jobs and money to an economy that's looking to revitalize.

Renewable energy, forestry management company could create 45 jobs

Richard Spinks says he's hoping to export products from the CoalSwitch plant directly from St. Anthony. (Town of St. Anthony)

There's new hope on the Northern Peninsula Tuesday thanks to a potential deal between the province and a U.K. company that hopes to bring life and industry to an area looking to revitalize. 

Active Energy, a British company that works in the renewable energy, forestry management and timber processing business, has entered an agreement in principle with the province that could bring 45 new jobs to the Northern Peninsula immediately.

Biomass is a renewable energy source derived from plant or wood-based matter. It can be used as an alternative to coal. (Active Energy Group)

While the deal is not yet finalized, Active Energy CEO Richard Spinks says his company has done its research and will submit the final business plan to government on June 1. 

"If it's approved, it will be around $10 million US of new cash in that economy per annum in the first year," Spinks told CBC News Tuesday, from his home in western Ukraine. 

There's an opportunity here for some employment…- Richard Spinks

Spinks said the ultimate goal is to build a coal switch plant, which emits far fewer pollutants and inflicts considerably less damage on the environment. 

Spinks said his company has developed a biomass fuel called CoalSwitch, which can be used as a substitute for coal in existing coal-fired power stations — without the need for expensive retrofitting.

According to its website, the technology allows coal-fired power plant owners to significantly reduce pollution levels and greenhouse gas emissions, allowing them to generate power while following emissions regulations.

Active Energy CEO Richard Spinks will present the final business plan to provincial government on June 1. (Submitted)

"You have this wonderful logistics opportunity when you're talking about the biggest market in the world for biomass, which is Europe," Spinks said.

New opportunity for Northern Peninsula

Spinks wouldn't comment on whether the company plans to build, partner or expand existing facilities. 

"We have yet to wait and see what the government says and what they wish us to do. It's the people [who] need to tell us what it is they want. But, we've modeled out all kinds of options."

Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Steve Crocker said government signed the agreement in principle regarding a fibre allocation with Active Energy in April, and he looks forward to seeing the final business plan in the coming days.

"We see where there's a fit here," Crocker told CBC.

"There's an opportunity here for some employment on the Northern Peninsula and some much needed economic activity."

Steve Crocker is Newfoundland and Labrador's Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Logistics worked out

Spinks said months of planning have gone into the project, including research on the logistics of operating from a rural part of the province.

But he's happy with the solutions they've come up with so far. Spinks said loading and shipping a complete product from St. Anthony to places like the U.K., Holland, Germany, France and Italy is a priority.

"You can export a downstream product which captures all of the value on the province, rather than exporting raw materials and exporting jobs elsewhere."

Spinks said the plan is to set up long-term and operate for at least 20 years — if not longer.

He said the initial 45 jobs do not include other positions that will come from contracting out forestry teams, truck drivers and other necessary workers.