[Thunder Bay power plant] Gas conversion on hold – by Kris Ketonen (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – November 3, 2012)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

The fate of the city’s OPG power plant will be clearer in a few months, the province’s minister of energy assured Friday.
Regional representatives were caught off-guard Thursday when the provincial government announced a hold on its plan to convert the plant so that it runs on natural gas instead of coal.

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) — which is in charge of Ontario’s long-term power system planning — believes the loss in power generation could be made up elsewhere, and mothballing the local plant would save taxpayers up to $400 million (that number was highly disputed on Friday, however).

“If the plans will provide those power needs and save money, then we’ll take a look at them,” Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley said in an interview Friday. “If they won’t, then the conversion is back on.

“Look, anytime anybody tells me they can do something and save up to $400 million, they’ve got my attention. But right now, I’m at the ‘show me’ stage, and that’s why we’re waiting for the more-detailed approach and plan.”

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Mines at risk in Thunder Bay power plant closure, officials say – by John Spears (Toronto Star – November 3, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Suspending a project to convert Thunder Bay’s coal-burning power plant to natural gas threatens the well-being of northwest Ontario’s booming mining sector, according to local politicians. And the Ontario Mining Association is also taking a close look at the impact decision, a spokesman said.

They were reacting to the Ontario government’s decision to halt work on converting the Thunder Bay plant to gas. It now burns coal, but the province has pledged to shut down all coal plants by the end of 2014. The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association put out a sharply worded release on the news.

“These actions put at risk billions of dollars of investment in the mining sector by raising concerns that the required power may not be there when it is needed,” said Ron Nelson, president of the association.

The province says that converting the 300-megawatt Thunder Bay plant isn’t needed, because the area’s needs can be served by a new transmission line scheduled to go into service in 2017.

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NEWS RELEASE: OPA Decision Puts Mining Growth at Risk [Northwestern Ontario]

Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA)

For immediate release: Friday, Novemver 2, 2012

THUNDER BAY – The Ontario Power Generation (OPG) announcement that they are suspending further work on the Thunder Bay Generating Station gas conversion is being met with anger and frustration by the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA). The announcement is a result of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) informing OPG that it “needs to explore other options for energy supply in the northwest” despite personal assurances by the Minister as recently as August that the conversion would proceed.

For many years, NOMA and its partners have made energy a top priority in our meetings with Government. We have been calling on the OPA to undertake proper energy planning in the Northwest including repeated requests to meet with Northwestern Ontario leaders and experts to discuss the comprehensive energy needs of the region. These requests have fallen on deaf ears and this decision is an unfortunate example of the consequence.

“How dare the OPA ignore specific government direction by causing further delays to the Thunder Bay Generating Station conversion!” said NOMA President Ron Nelson. “These actions jeopardize the conversion and also put at risk billions of dollars of investment in the mining sector by raising concerns that the required power may not be there when it is needed.”

“Why is OPA determined to turn off the lights in our region?” questioned Nelson. “Why is the Ontario Government letting this happen?”

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Ontario’s Power Trip: Dalton McGuinty, power puppeteer – by Parker Gallant (National Post – November 2, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

 Premier’s Office overwhelmed bureaucrats on gas-plant scandal

The 56,000 pages of documents associated with the Ontario government’s decision to kill two gas plants originally planned for Mississauga and Oakville show clearly the top-down role of politicians, both in the decisions made and in the attempts to hide the costs. They show, in numerous instances, how Premier Dalton McGuinty was in absolute control through his cabinet ministers to the officials he had appointed to the agencies involved.

As I read the documents so far, including board briefings and emails among the many players, it’s the Liberal strategists attached to the Premier’s Office and Ministry offices who are invested in hiding the mess the gas plants created. As energy consultant Tom Adams suggests in his review of the documents, the evidence suggests the total cost of plant cancellations is likely greater than $1.3-billion, the burden to be borne by electricity consumers.

The documents show that McGuinty strategists managed the gas files to benefit the Liberal party rather than taxpayers and ratepayers. Once the plants were cancelled, in October 2010 and September 2011, the top-down political influence is very noticeable. Post-cancellation negotiations to cover the costs of breaking contracts fell to Liberal party officials who tried to cover up the mess, not to energy experts.

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Superstorm vs. teacup tempest – by Peter Foster(National Post – November 2, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

TransCanada issue is ­nothing compared with Sandy-sized McGuinty scandal

The commentaries in this paper on Wednesday by Terence Corcoran and Tom Adams about the horrendous waste, foot-dragging and dodgy political meddling attached to the cancellation of two Ontario gas plants, and to Ontario energy policy in general, make for infuriating reading. The cancellation of the plants, in Oakville and Mississauga, could cost $1.3-billion or more. The costs of the Green Energy Act will be multiples of that amount.

Those commentaries provide ample support for suspicions that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the legislature in an attempt to stonewall further investigation, even if the price was throwing himself out of office.

This case meanwhile throws up the issue of the enormously different standards to which the public and private sectors adhere, and are held.

The final figure for which Queen’s Park had to settle with ­TransCanada Energy, the company with the contract to build the Oakville plant, is not known, but could be up to $900-million. This sum is outrageous if you are an Ontario taxpayer, but certainly cannot be blamed on TransCanada, which has come under vicious — and unjustified — attack from other directions.

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McGuinty’s dark secrets on cancelled power plants revealed – by Terence Corcoran (National Post – November 1, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Documents show cancelling Oakville plant alone will cost $1-billion

As Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the Ontario legislature and announced his retirement last month, he would have known that some of the darker secrets of his government’s handling of energy policy would soon come to light. Today, those secrets — until now buried in 56,000 pages of released but unreadable documents — are appearing in the open.

In sordid and alarming detail, the documents show that the McGuinty government’s cancellation of gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga are likely to cost as much as $1.3-billion, possibly more. Killing the Oakville plant and moving it to Bath will alone burden Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers with costs that exceed $1-billion.

These numbers — openly discussed in documents as part of the government’s legal negotiations with TransCanada Energy and other companies — are a far cry from the $40-million Energy Minister Chris Bentley recently announced as the cost of killing the 900-megawatt Oakville Generating Station.

More than the numbers, the documents — analyzed by Toronto energy consultant Tom Adams in a posting to his website Tuesday and in FP Comment Thursday — also show that the premier’s office played a role in the gas-plant debacle. Under instruction, bureaucrats and government agency staff, especially at the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), were also dragged into litigation negotiations aimed at containing the major liabilities the government had created.

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