March 25, 2020 By Gordon Murray, WPAC
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) shared how the sector is continuing to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
Thank you for the leadership that you and your government are providing in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The purpose of this letter is to update you regarding how Canada’s wood pellet sector is fulfilling its responsibilities as part of Canada’s Critical Infrastructure as defined in Public Safety Canada’s National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure.
The wood pellet sector is unique in that we are actually a subsector of several other critical industries including manufacturing, forest products, energy and utilities. The majority of Canadian wood pellets are exported to Europe and Asia to generate clean, renewable, low-carbon electricity in power plants. Our utility customers all operate with just-in-time supply chains that are reliant on continuous Canadian wood pellet supply. Any supply chain interruption would result in electrical power plants having to close, disrupting electricity generation in the countries we export to, which would obviously be devastating to their COVID-19 response. In the United Kingdom, wood pellets account for six to eight per cent of the country’s electricity and Canada is one of the UK’s main suppliers. In Japan, Canada accounts for 50 to 70 per cent of all that country’s wood pellet supply.
Wood pellets are also used for home heating in rural Canada, especially in areas not served by the natural gas grid. Wood pellets are often the lowest cost, or even the only fuel option in many parts of rural Canada.
There are additional benefits to our current operations. Our product is contributing to the fight against global warming because we have replaced dirty coal in power plants. We are providing much needed revenue for the primary forest sector from whom we purchase our raw materials. And we are helping to keep our national rail network and ports busy in these times of reduced economic activity.
We would like to point out that Canada’s wood pellet plants are among the world’s most modern and highly automated. The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. We are closely following the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the Government of Canada regarding COVID-19 precautions. These include:
- Adoption of ‘work from home’ measures for those who are able to, and no group gatherings
- Implementation of systems to support employees facing potential cases of COVID-19 and/or individuals in self-quarantine within the workforce
- Modifying shift schedules to reduce employee contact between shifts and implementation of social distancing operations-wide
- Managing break, lunch, and dinner times to ensure a two-metre distance between staff members
- Suspending international travel and significant restrictions on domestic travel
- Restrictions on visitors; thorough screening of on-site contractors, and deliveries
- Ramped up sanitation and hygiene measures across facilities, common areas, and all surfaces
- Sharing best practices amongst our membership during our regular industry-wide safety webinars
We wish to assure you that during these challenging days, and for the days ahead, we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities as part of Canada’s Critical Infrastructure.
I would be pleased to discuss these issues with you or your staff at your convenience.
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