Northeast eyed for future hydro electric projects – by By Ron Grech – (Timmins Daily Press – September 16, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – The groundwork is being laid for future waterpower generation projects in Northeastern Ontario. This would include providing power to serve mining operations within the Ring of Fire region as well improving infrastructure for First Nation communities currently dependent on diesel-powered generators.

Ontario Waterpower Association announced last week it has teamed up with the provincial government and the Ontario Power Authority to develop a study that will provide the basis for the province’s energy plan over the next 15 to 20 years.

“Northeastern Ontario has been a pretty critical part of serving the provincial energy needs for decades,” said OWA president Paul Norris. “It is a pretty strategic resource you have in Northeastern Ontario in terms of the overall reliability of our provincial system.

“The question going forward is what other hydro can be built?”

Norris said the announced study, which also involves the ministries of energy and natural resources, will identify opportunities and outline the cost and feasibility for expanding hydroelectric power generation throughout the North.

“We want to have it in the government’s hands in time for them to finish their evaluation and assessment of the long-term energy plan … We’re talking hopefully by the end of October.”

Norris said study will identify hydroelectric opportunities in proximity to prospective mining operations within the Ring of Fire. It will also focus on the need to improve the hydroelectric infrastructure in remote communities along the James Bay coast and Northwestern Ontario.

“There is a pretty clear business case that investing in transmission (for diesel-dependent remote communities) will actually save money, particularly given the uncertainties around the cost of diesel and the challenges they’ve been having getting diesel into those communities during the winter,” said Norris.

The challenge has always been justifying the costly installation of infrastructure across expansive areas to serve these small remote communities.

Norris acknowledged, “It’s an extensive area, but when you do the math” the investment in hydroelectric power provides long-term savings. “There is virtually no comparison.”

The OWA represents companies that own and operate hydro facilities as well as suppliers and consultants.

“We’re partnering with three pretty key agencies of government … We retained one of our members who did the analysis in 2005-2006, Hatch, and we’re focusing this analysis on the North. The previous review we did looked across the province. We have a pretty good handle of what’s available in Southern Ontario so this is really looking at some of the potential in the North.”

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