Ontario’s forest and farms can provide renewable supplies of carbon neutral biomass fuel in the form of wood wastes, agricultural residues and purpose grown crops. This domestic fuel could be used in Ontario’s existing coal stations along with natural gas to generate electricity when needed.
Apart from recycling these provincially-owned generation assets and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, domestically-sourced biomass fuel would improve our province’s energy security, create thousands of jobs in forestry, agriculture and transportation and help stimulate Ontario’s emerging bio-economy.
The European Union and member countries like the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Germany are aggressively making biomass a bigger part of their energy mix. Besides creating jobs, they are reducing their reliance on imported fossil fuels, improving energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
European countries have put incentives in place to encourage the use of biomass for electricity production and heating. For example, countries like the United Kingdom are converting existing thermal generating stations to use biomass alone and or together with coal and natural gas.
In 2011, global consumption of wood pellets was about 15 million tonnes. By 2012, it had reached 22.4 million tonnes. In 2011, Canada exported 1.2 million tonnes of biomass fuel to Europe, mostly to the U.K. and 600,000 tonnes to Japan. Current estimates suggest European demand will reach 80 million tonnes by 2020. The demand for biomass from Korea, Japan and China is also expected to rise dramatically.
Over the last decade, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), with provincial government support, has been investigating ways to move to a lower-carbon future by converting existing coal generating stations to biomass alone or together with natural gas. The conversion of Ontario Power Generation’s Atikokan Generating Station from coal to 100 percent biomass is already well underway and will produce 200 megawatts of renewable, dispatchable (generation that can be turned on or off), carbon-neutral electricity. On November 18, 2013, the government announced that Ontario Power Generation (OPG) had received a five-year contract for the Thunder Bay Generating Station to generate electricity using an advanced biomass technology. Modifications to the plant will begin in 2014 with operations expected to commence in 2015. Concurrently, Ontario’s forestry and agricultural sectors have been spending millions of dollars to demonstrate that our province’s farms and forests can provide sustainable supplies of biomass. Both sectors are working to establish domestic and export markets for their biomass output.
While Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan acknowledges that the province’s existing coal generating stations could be converted to use a combination of biomass and natural gas for peak needs, no contracts have been struck to make this happen.
Converting existing generating units at Ontario’s Nanticoke and Lambton Generating Stations to biomass and natural gas could deliver many benefits. It would:
- recycle valuable, provincially-owned generating stations and transmission lines that are already sited, built and paid for;
- cost far less than building new natural gas plants
- reduce the need to site and build new natural gas plants and transmission lines
- secure a continuing revenue stream for the people of Ontario;
- make renewable, low-carbon electricity available when consumers need it;
- displace carbon-emitting natural gas;
- lessen Ontario’s dependence on imported natural gas and help improve Ontario’s energy security;
- provide continuing social and economic benefits for the communities that want to keep these generating stations operating;
- support existing Ontario jobs and small businesses in the forestry, agricultural and transportation sectors;
- create thousands more full-time jobs (Investments in biomass fuel supply chain infrastructure are estimated to create about 3,500 jobs and contribute about $600 million annually to Ontario’s GDP);
- keep more economic benefits in Ontario instead of going to big multi-national developers.
For more information about Biomass please go to the following websites: