Plenty of questions to be answered [Thunder Bay power plant] – Kris Ketonen (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – November 14, 2012)

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

Despite several still-unanswered questions, Thunder Bay representatives are encouraged about the future of the Thunder Bay Generating Station after meeting with the provincial energy minister on Tuesday.

The government announced that it was putting a hold on the conversion of the plant from coal-burning to natural gas-burning.

The decision came as a result of assertions by the Ontario Power Authority that halting the conversion would save $400 million, while other initiatives — including expanding the east-west tieline that ships power between Northern and southern Ontario — would ensure the region’s energy needs are met.

Regional representatives, however, say the region’s power needs can’t be met if the plant isn’t running, especially given the looming mining boom. Nine mines are expected to start up in the Northwest within the next five years, bringing major power requirements with them. After meeting with Bentley on the matter, Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs said he was encouraged.

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[Thunder Bay] Gas plant delay needs explaining – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (November 9, 2012)

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

EVERY once in a while an issue arises with such profound implications that virtually everyone involved pays attention. These things can even cause politicians to go against their own governing party line, though that is all too rare. Both events have occurred in Thunder Bay after the Ontario Power Authority called off conversion of the city’s coal-fired power plant to natural gas.

The conversion, part of the Liberal government’s abandonment of coal-burning generating stations in the interest of cleaner air, was already delayed once, reportedly incurring a penalty of $5 million. Put back on track by the province, this second suspension comes despite the need for a secure local power source for an imminent mining boom that is poised to rescue the region’s flagging economy, create as many as 13,000 area jobs and produce an estimated $16 billion in tax revenue for all three levels government.

The suspension also comes despite personal assurances by Energy Minister Chris Bentley, as recently as August, that the conversion would proceed. Bentley says he wants to allow the OPA time to prove its claim to be able to save up to $400 million by mothballing the plant (a number that astonishes local officials) and make up the lost power from other sources. It’s a plan the region needs to hear, and soon.

Decentralizing the old Ontario Hydro was supposed to produce a leaner, more accountable electricity regimen in Ontario. But soaring costs for power, and for delivering it, have soured many Ontarians on the process which, by this second suspension of work at Thunder Bay, appears even more confused.

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McGuinty’s Grits clueless about northern needs – by Christina Blizzard (Toronto Sun – November 9, 2012)

TORONTO — The government of Dalton McGuinty hammered one more nail in the coffin of northern Ontario recently, when the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) decided to back away from the conversion of the Thunder Bay coal-burning power plant to natural gas.

Critics say the OPA’s decision makes development of the “Ring of Fire” – a remote part of the northwest that’s rich in mineral deposits – almost impossible.

The decision comes hard on the heels of other northern blunders such as the Far North Act, which put half the land north of the 51st parallel – an area about the size of Britain – out of bounds for development.

Then they shut down the Ontario Northland Transportation Corp. (ONTC) rail service, a move that will devastate small communities and stifle economic growth. Cancelling the conversion of the power plant is a further blow to the northern economy.

In its announcement, the OPA said it would provide the electricity northwestern Ontario needs by building new transmission lines. That doesn’t make sense.The decision also highlights the foolishness of the original plan by the McGuinty government to shut down coal plants.

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Thunder Bay Power plant shocker – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (November 4, 2012)

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

JUST when Northwestern Ontario had some wind in its sails — bam! — the penny-pinching province becalms mining-related momentum by suddenly cancelling the conversion of Thunder Bay’s electricity generating station from coal to gas. There are a whole raft of questions still to come, and there might well be good answers to them. But for the time being, this plan looks hair-brained.

First, it flies in the face of the province’s vaunted coal phase-out policy built on converting newer plants in order to keep the lights on in various regions. Converting Thunder Bay Generating Station to natural gas and Atikokan to biomass is a central plank in the clean-air platform. Atikokan is still proceeding but it will only produce 20 megawatts at the best of times.

Thunder Bay GS would produce 700 MW from gas. Removing that capacity from the grid would leave the Northwest destitute for electricity just when it needs a lot of it to power the new mining boom, area leaders said Friday at a news conference punctuated with expressions of dismay.

The energy minister cautions this is temporary — for now — while the Ontario Power Authority prepares a new plan for the North built around a doubling in capacity of the east-west tie line to 600 MW.

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More than ever, Dalton McGuinty needs to recall Ontario’s legislature [power plant issues] – Globe and Mail Editorial (November 3, 2012)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

The continued slow drip of damning information being gleaned from the thousands of pages of correspondence and legal documents related to the Ontario government’s cancellation of a power plant in Mississauga is starting to add up.

The latest, revealed in The Globe and Mail, shows just how eager Premier Dalton McGuinty was to kill the partially constructed plant, and how willing he was to spend taxpayers’ money to do it – even as his province faced serious deficits and he would soon be calling on public-sector workers to accept wage freezes. More than ever, Mr. McGuinty should recall the Ontario Legislature and allow it to properly examine the government’s actions.

The documents reveal to what great extent the Mississauga plant consumed Mr. McGuinty and some of his ministers and deputy ministers. According to internal correspondence, the Premier began talking to his staff the day after he was elected about finding ways to keep his ill-advised promise to close the plant, asking them to “be creative.”

The documents also show the government overpaid to settle an unrelated lawsuit with the developers in order get them to agree to stop construction: A judge had recommended $5-million but the government paid $10-million.

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Meet the brothers behind Ontario’s controversial gas plant – by Paul Waldie and Karen Howlett (Globe and Mail – November 3, 2012)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

When the Ontario government awarded a little-known company a contract to build two gas-fired power plants near Toronto in 2005, the move was hailed as a win for the environment, hydro consumers and the province’s electricity system.

The company, Eastern Power Ltd., had never done anything that size before. But the government insisted the bid had been thoroughly vetted and Eastern would have to meet strict performance terms. Today, the project is in tatters, an embarrassing and costly bruise on Dalton McGuinty’s nine-year tenure as Premier of Ontario.

It has been scrapped without producing a single kilowatt of electricity. The project fell victim to the governing Liberals’ promise in the dying days of last year’s provincial election campaign to cancel it if re-elected because of mounting local opposition. The pledge helped save four Liberal seats in the area and secure Mr. McGuinty’s minority government.

But at what cost? A review of thousands of internal government documents by The Globe and Mail reveal the troubled history of the plant, dubbed Greenfield South, and the lengths the government had to go to cancel the project. Officials in the energy sector also question whether Greg and Hubert Vogt, Eastern’s owners, had the experience to take on such a large project.

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[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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