Following a successful conclusion to the construction of the East-West Tie Line, the Common Voice Northwest Energy Task Force now is celebrating a decision by the Ontario Energy Board to correct a historical barrier to getting power to new mines and mills in Northwestern Ontario.
For many years, the task force has advocated the Ontario government and the OEB to change the assignment of costs for the upgrading of distribution and transmission lines to reflect a fair share approach.
Last week, OEB announced a number of cost allocation changes, including four areas that the task force identified to reflect the specific needs of the northwest.
“Recently, Greenstone Gold tried to get the transmission line that connects the Municipality of Greenstone upgraded to power the new mine but was told they had to pay for 100 percent of the cost of the upgrade to replace the existing service for the community, as well as increase the capacity required by Greenstone Gold,” noted task force co-chair Iain Angus.
“The high cost of this overall upgrade, which would benefit the entire Greenstone area, including First Nations, was so excessive that Greenstone Gold determined that it was more cost-effective to construct its own gas-fired generating station instead,” he said.
“These changes will assist the northwest in moving its economy forward by reducing the investment needed to get new mines and mills up and running,” said Common Voice Northwest chair Wendy Landry, who also is president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA).
The task force, through the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce and with financial backing of the NOMA, engaged the legal firm of Weilers Law to represent the region before the OEB.
The process to review the Transmission and Distribution System Code has been ongoing since 2016, with a decision rendered last week.
It is expected all costs for the intervention will be recovered through the OEB.
Landry also noted the role of Common Voice Northwest continues to be that of a public policy research entity that examines Northwestern Ontario issues and puts forward solutions that will improve the economy of the region.
“We continue to work with our municipal and Chamber partners to advocate on the issues and solutions that Common Voice Northwest identifies maintaining a single voice on behalf of the area,” she said.
“This is a classic example of the significant research conducted by the Energy Task Force, led by its co-chairs, Iain Angus and Larry Hebert, that has led to yet another major change in government policy,” Landry added.
“It also reflects the legal expertise of Weilers Law in taking these and other energy matters to the Ontario Energy Board.”
Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce president Charla Robinson agrees.
“The work of Common Voice Northwest is crucial to researching the barriers to growth and identifying reasonable solutions that will work for the northwest,” she said.
“Area Chambers are pleased to have been a key partner in this effort before the Ontario Energy Board.”