Uncertain future for biomass plant near Hearst

January 30, 2020

By: The Working Forest Staff

HEARST, THE TIMMINS DAILY PRESS — The future of a biomass generation facility near Hearst remains uncertain as locals hope for a contract renewal with the province.

According To a report in the Timmins Daily Press, Calstock Biomass Generation sells 100 per cent of its output to the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation under a power purchase agreement that expires in June 2020. The plant, located 30 kilometres west of Hearst, generates electricity using wood waste provided by several sawmills in the area.

The wood waste includes bark, sawdust and any brush material that is not useable for producing lumber.

“We’ve got five mills depending on it, not only in Hearst but in Longlac, Hornepayne and White River,” said Hearst Mayor Roger Sigouin.

If the contract isn’t renewed and the facility is forced to close, that would result in a loss of 20 direct jobs plus any other related jobs that are dependent on the continued operation of that facility, said Sigouin.

“Without an extension, our community will immediately lose more than 20 full-time, high-paying jobs … Moreover, the municipality is deeply concerned about the direct impact the loss of revenue will have on more than 400 local positions at the wood-waste-supplying mills and service industries.”

The mayor said there have been repeated attempts by the plant’s owner, Atlantic Power, to negotiate with the Ontario Government to extend the power purchase agreement.

However, Sigouin added, “The government cited its commitment to avoid new contracts and its desire to reduce electricity rates as reasons to avoid” extending the agreement.

Despite the prevailing uncertainty and concern about the facility’s future, Sigouin is holding out hope that Greg Rickford, the Ontario Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines who is also a fellow Northern Ontarian, will agree to meet with the company and the municipality to iron out an extension before the current agreement expires in June.

“Minister Rickford is smarter than that,” said Sigouin. “He came from Kenora and he knows what a one-industry town is like.  I’m pretty sure he’s going to call us and say, ‘OK, I’m going to meet with you.’

“We’ve got to give them a chance, but we also can’t wait too long because June is coming fast.”

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