NEOMA criticizes impact IESO’s new contract process on bioenergy

By North Eastern Ontario Municipal Association | April 14, 2016

North Eastern Ontario's municipalities are disappointed by Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator's announcement to reduce the total allocation from biomass power.

The North Eastern Ontario Municipal Association had hoped its communications with the IESO, both public and private, would improve the government agency's understanding of the unique biomass power generation capabilities of the region. With the closure of Cochrane Power in May 2015, the region has a 12 MW biomass power generating facility that is ready, willing and able to provide renewable, carbon neutral energy to the provincial electricity grid. However, the recent IESO announcement represents a 40 per cent reduction to the total of biomass power allocated in Ontario (from 50 MW in the previous RFP, to 30 MW in the current RFP).

"This is disappointing," said NEOMA Chair and Timmins municipal Councilor Mike Doody. "While not making any mention of the opportunity for existing plants to bid on the new RFP, the IESO does make it clear that any contracts will not be awarded until 2018. By this time, Cochrane Power could have turned almost half a million tonnes of lumber and agriculture waste into power, rather than the material being sent to a landfill or other less sustainable forms of disposal."

Based on a March 25 article published in the Daily Press, NEOMA fears IESO may not fully understand the capabilities of power facilities in the area. While natural gas does not qualify as a renewable source, Cochrane Power has two separate power generating engines—one is 12 MW for biomass and another 26 MW powered by natural gas. It does not use a combination of the two, and while natural gas does not qualify, biomass certainly does.

"We sincerely hope IESO will reconsider allowing existing plants to bid on the new RFP, and take a closer look at the opportunity Cochrane Power provides the province and especially North Eastern Ontario," continued Doody. "The government of Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has determined that biomass power generation should play a critical role in the province's action plans to address climate change, and NEOMA's municipalities are keen on being a part of that plan. We would also love to see a Regional Energy Plan be initiated in our area, which is being done in many other regions in Ontario."