Napanee Council to consider Atura’s offer of $4.8 million for expansion support

Atura’s Napanee Generating Station. Image from Atura’s Expansion and BESS Public Meeting Presentation.

The Town of Greater Napanee is being offered $4.8 million to support the construction of a new gas plant in the area, but some would argue it is “dirty” money.

Town Council’s meeting agenda for Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, includes a report from Michael Nobes, General Manager – Growth & Expansion, recommending that Council “receive for information the Growth & Expansion – Atura Power Napanee Generating Station Natural Gas Turbine Expansion Request for Municipal Support Resolution report.”

Important to understand this request is the fact that the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which coordinates and integrates Ontario’s electricity system, is seeking out a string of new energy projects to support the future electricity needs of the province.

According to the IESO website, “After more than a decade of strong supply, Ontario is entering a period of emerging electricity system needs, driven by increasing demand, the retirement of the Pickering nuclear plant, the refurbishment of other nuclear-generating units, as well as expiring contracts for existing facilities.” As such, the IESO has opened a Long-Term Request for Proposals (LT1 RFP) for projects “to competitively procure 2,518 MW [megawatts] of year-round capacity from dispatchable new build resources.”

These include “newly built storage facilities, registered or able to become registered in the IESO-administered markets, larger than 1MW and which can deliver a continuous amount of electricity to a connection point on a distribution system or transmission system for at least four consecutive hours.”

Nobes’s report asks Council to support the proposal from Atura Power in the development, construction, and operation of the proposed 450MW Natural Gas Turbine Expansion Long-Term Reliability Project within the Town of Greater Napanee. 

The report points out, “In consideration for receipt of a municipal support resolution, Atura Power proposes to provide, on a yearly basis, a Community Benefit Fund in the amount of $1,000/MW per year for the duration of the IESO contract (12 years). This represents a significant investment in the community amounting to up to $400,000 per annum over a 12-year time horizon ($4.8M total over 12 years with the opportunity to further extend if contract extensions are awarded by the IESO)… This express commitment has been provided in writing to the municipality.”

However, the staff report notes that this resolution’s “sole purpose is to enable [Atura] to receive Rated Criteria Points under the LT1 RFP or to satisfy its obligations under any awarded LT1 Contract.” 

Nobes also writes, “Rated Criteria points will be used to rank [Atura’s] Proposal in relation to other Proposals received by the IESO,” and points out that his resolution of municipal support “does not supersede any applicable permits or approvals under applicable Laws and Regulations that may be required for a particular Long-Term Reliability Project. This resolution shall only be used for LT1 RFP proposals after its adoption by Council.”

Current site plan of Atura’s Napanee Generating Station. Image from Atura’s Expansion and BESS Public Meeting Presentation.

Council will also hear from at least three delegates who want to speak to this proposed expansion of the Napanee Generating Station by Atura Power, at least two of whom are opposed to the project.

Among them is Former Toronto Hydro Commissioner Jack Gibbons, chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA). In a press release, the OCAA points out that Atura Power is the brand name of Ontario Power Generation and is a Crown corporation wholly owned by the government of Ontario. 

As such, OCAA believes Atura “should not be using public money to attempt to sway local officials to support a dirty gas plant that will lead to more asthma attacks in Napanee, more climate damage everywhere and higher electricity bills for Ontario’s electricity consumers.”

The OCAA release against the proposed gas plant expansion suggests that “Ontario has much cleaner and lower cost options to power its air conditioners on hot summer days. For example, according to the Royal Bank, Ontario can avoid the need for new gas plants and save $500 million per year by investing in technologies to increase our energy efficiency and shift demand from peak to off-peak periods.”

OCAA also points out, “The cities of Kingston, Thorold and Toronto have passed resolutions opposing new gas plants in their communities. Hopefully, Greater Napanee will do so too.”

The organization urges citizens to contact their MPP and Energy Minister Todd Smith and “tell them that you don’t want [Ontario Power Generation] to use public money to influence municipalities to support the building of dirty gas plants in their communities. Please remind them that we have cleaner and lower cost options to power our air conditioners on hot summer days (e.g., energy efficiency and demand management, Quebec waterpower, wind and solar, and energy storage).”

Indeed, last month Kingston City Council approved blanket municipal support for energy projects in that municipality, with the caveat that they “specifically exclude fossil-fueled projects… and make it clear that the City’s support is only for renewables.”

Also making an appearance before Napanee Town Council will be Keith Brooks, programs director at Environmental Defence, a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

Brooks’ presentation also notes that there are several alternatives to expanding gas production in Ontario: “Batteries can provide the same function and they are cheaper. Similarly, the IESO and [Royal Bank of Canada] both did a study which showed that we don’t need gas plants to meet our electricity needs.”

Brooks’s notes urge each member of Council, “Please use this moment to protect your municipality’s climate commitments and pave the way for Ontario to build a clean and affordable electricity grid for everyone.”

You can watch all of the presentations live on the Town of Greater Napanee YouTube channel this evening, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023 at 7 p.m. or attend in person at Greater Napanee’s historic Town Hall, 124 John Street.

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