The Nanticoke Generating Station, situated on Lake Erie, was built in 1972 and began producing electricity in 1973. The plant was finally closed in 2013, in accordance with Ontario’s 2007 decision to move away from coal-fired electricity generation. Since then, the station had been kept in a state of preservation with a small number of people working to maintain the site. In 2017, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) announced that it had formed a partnership with the Six Nations and planned to host a 44 MW solar project on the site.
For over a decade, the Power Workers’ Union (PWU) worked diligently to reduce the environmental impacts of this station and the others in OPG’s fossil fleet. Some of the Nanticoke units had already been outfitted with selective catalytic converter (SCRs) technology that helped remove nitrogen oxide emissions. The PWU advocated for the conversion of Nanticoke and Ontario’s other coal stations to carbon-neutral biomass and or biomass and natural gas. The SCRs at Nanticoke would have accommodated such a conversion. In 2006, the PWU brought biomass experts from Germany and Denmark to Ontario to meet with energy policy decision-makers. Independent research studies sponsored by the PWU confirmed that converting these stations to utilize biomass, was not only Ontario’s cheapest investment option, but added the additional benefit of significantly reduced greenhouse gas and smog causing emissions. In addition, The PWU also undertook a proactive communication and outreach campaign in support of these investments. The PWU had experienced some success in this area. The Atikokan Generating Station conversion and the use of advanced biomass pellets at Thunder Bay GS were influenced by the PWU’s efforts. Atikokan is now North America’s largest 100 percent biomass-fuelled power plant generating renewable, dispatchable, peak capacity power.
In its submission to Ontario’s 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) consultation process, the PWU recommended the conversion of Nanticoke and Lambton to co-fuelling with biomass and natural gas to meet peak demands. The latest version of the plan was released on October 26, 2017, and did not reference recycling the idle, provincially-owned Nanticoke and Lambton station assets as in a previous version of the LTEP.
Throughout Nanticoke’s 40 years of operation, the 4,000 MW plant was a key component of Ontario’s electricity grid, producing enough electricity to power 2.5 million households while employing an average of 650 regular full-time employees per year. It was a tremendous facility that was operated and maintained by an enormously talented and dedicated workforce. PWU members who worked there can look back on those times with fond memories and pride.