From coal to wood thermoelectric energy production: Socio-economic impacts in northwestern Ontario, Canada
Dampier, Jason E. E.
Doctor of Philosophy
SubjectAtikokan Generating Station
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The province of Ontario in Canada is the first North American jurisdiction with legislation in place to eliminate coal-fired thermoelectric production. Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) coal-fired Atikokan Generating Station (AGS) is the only facility that switched to 100% woody biomass – in 2014. However, the socio-economic impacts of this policy change on the community of Atikokan in northwestern Ontario have not been analyzed. This dissertation synthesizes and presents three separate, strongly integrated papers in journal article format. The first paper presents the current state of peer-reviewed literature relating to three common fuel burning scenarios (biomass, coal and co-firing) for thermoelectric production. Over 150 sources, which included peer-reviewed articles and non-peer-reviewed grey literature such as consultant reports, government documents, and news articles were reviewed. Knowledge gaps related to socio-economic impacts and indicators were identified. The second paper takes a qualitative data analysis approach utilizing interviews with community leaders, current newspaper articles, past consultant reports and archival data, and presents the community’s lobby response to the coal ban. Four emergent themes were identified and cross validated. The third paper modeled and compared three potential scenarios at AGS, and an induced economic impact assessment model was developed to assess direct changes in employment at the power plant (and indirect employment at associated local industries), and induced spending patterns of households. The model suggests that the continuation of coal would allow for $82.7M in household spending, the shutdown reduces household spending to $72.1M, whereas the conversion to biomass increases household spending to $83.9M. As the study reveals, biomass conversion could produce a net positive induced economic impact, provided local biomass fuel supply is available. Furthermore, as power-generating authorities grapple with demands to reduce carbon emissions, the Atikokan case may provide insight for other jurisdictions evaluating renewable energy adoption.