Thunder Bay·New

Future of power plant in government's hands

The uncertain future of the Thunder Bay Generating Station will be decided by the province say area delegates following a meeting with Energy Minister Chris Bentley.

Meeting with energy minister a success, say area delegates

Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley has said he will review data from the Ontario Power Authority relating to the future of the Thunder Bay Generating Station.

The uncertain future of the Thunder Bay Generating Station will be decided by the provincial government and not by Ontario Power Generation or the Ontario Power Authority.

That was the bottom line following a meeting on Tuesday between area delegates and Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley, according to Thunder Bay city councillor Joe Virdiramo.

"In the end, government, through the minister of energy, will make a decision. It won't be up to the OPA or OPG, it will be up to government to make that decision on the information that they have," said Virdiramo.

The future of the coal-fired plant and some 130 jobs has been in doubt since OPG stopped working to convert it to natural gas, pending further review of northwestern Ontario’s electricity needs by the OPA.

OPA has said it can get power to the region more cheaply by other means including retransmission, and that it does not need electricity from the Thunder Bay site.

Delegates from the city and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association met with the minister in Toronto, arguing that the plant should be kept open.

Virdiramo said he was satisfied with the outcome. The minister said he would look at OPA’s data and decide if it's valid, said Virdiramo.

Thunder Bay-Atikokan Liberal MPP Bill Mauro also attended the meeting.  He told CBC it was important for the minister to get a regional perspective on the issue. "To just ensure that he understood our point of view, not only for Thunder Bay, but for all of northwestern Ontario in terms of where we feel we're going to need to be from an energy standpoint in the years ahead", he said. Mauro added that he felt that case was made to the minister very well.

City councillor Larry Hebert heard about the details of the meeting on a teleconference from Toronto to Thunder Bay city hall. He said if the government does mothball the plant, the city should purchase it.

Hebert said he doesn't know the value of the plant, but estimates it's in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It's something that we've put on the table before," he said. "I think it's an option they should look at if they're not willing to keep the plant open."