By Andrew Macklin
Decemebr 9, 2015 - Ontario Power Generation has set an example for the global energy market.
The official startup of the Thunder Bay Generating Station, which uses advanced biomass to provide power to the grid rather than coal, has created a new generation of power generation that should catch the attention of countries around the world. (See our feature story on page 10).
It seems that, finally, the introduction of the Arbapellets from Oslo, Norway may provide the solution for the replacement of coal generation on a global scale.
But it isn’t necessarily just the clean nature of the fuel that should be grabbing the attention of global energy thought-leaders; it is the cost of the conversion. The coal-fired power plant conversion to advanced biomass cost just $5 million, a very inexpensive solution for switching to a renewable energy source. That number becomes ever more unbelievable when you consider that the conversion of the OPG Atikokan Generating Station cost $170 million to switch to white pellets.
With a newly-elected federal Liberal government in place, there is also a greater chance that solutions will be sought to further the climate change agenda in Canada. The rhetoric from Team Trudeau during the campaign suggested that a greater commitment to meeting stricter climate change targets in Canada will soon be a national priority.
So then where does a new technology with low conversion costs but no domestic production come into play in the changing environmental landscape?
Could advanced biomass rise to the forefront of the climate change agenda based on the Thunder Bay project?
Conceivably, the answer could easily be yes, even without the political will of the individual provinces. Here’s why.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Trudeau spent some time campaigning alongside Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, also a member of the Liberal Party. To date, Ontario has made the most investments in green energy and has successfully pushed coal-generation out of the province. PM Trudeau and Premier Wynne’s friendship suggests the allies will consult on matters of national importance, and as stated earlier, the prime minister has made it clear that climate change will be a national priority.
We already know that PM Trudeau is prepared to run short-term deficits to accomplish his goals. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see a grant system put in place to encourage the additional power authorities to convert. And if other provincial energy providers came on board, that would certainly generate enough national demands for companies to look at investing in advanced biomass production on Canadian soil.
The change in government, the political allies, and the low cost of conversion look to have created a perfect storm to make the replacement of coal with advanced biomass, on a national scale, a realistic possibility.