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Active Energy CEO Richard Spinks visits Northern Peninsula

Active Energy CEO Richard Spinks met with Roddickton-Bide Arm mayor Sheila Fitzgerald on Sept. 19.
Active Energy CEO Richard Spinks met with Roddickton-Bide Arm mayor Sheila Fitzgerald on Sept. 19.

NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – Discussions are proceeding to bring a pellet plant operation to the Northern Peninsula.

Richard Spinks, CEO of Active Energy Group, says the provincial government is currently reviewing its proposal, which would give the company a 20-year forestry lease covering almost all of the Northern Peninsula.
In May 2017, the Telegram reported that Active Energy, a London, UK-based company, had reached an agreement in principle with the provincial government.
The operation would manufacture wood pellets as part of its CoalSwitch product – a form of biofuel designed to replace coal at existing power plants with no retrofitting.
Spinks was in the St. Anthony area last week and sat down with the Northern Pen to provide an update and discuss the proposed operation.
He believes everything is now in the provincial government’s hands.
“We think we’re now at the stage where we’ve done everything we need to do,” said Spinks. “And then it would be up to the government to decide.”
He adds this would be a cabinet decision. Active Energy doesn’t know how long it will take for government to approve its plans.
Spinks believes the company would employ approximately 63 full-time positions in the region; however, this number doesn’t factor in additional employment the operation would bring.
Spinks says it doesn’t include employment for any of the forestry activities; the company will contract those jobs out to existing logging firms on the Northern Peninsula.
These are firms Active Energy is already familiar with; thus, harvesting will be conducted entirely by local operations, he said.
There would also be some initial part-time employment to set up Active Energy’s operations on the Northern Peninsula. And the number doesn’t include ancillary services, such as transportation.
Spinks says the company is considering two locations: Roddickton for the plant and sawmill, and St. Anthony for the wharf.
Of the 63 jobs, he estimates 65 per cent would be in Roddickton and 35 per cent in St. Anthony. Under this hypothetical arrangement, the pellets would be produced in Roddickton and then driven to St. Anthony to be shipped out to markets in Europe.

The group is reviewing what it would take to get Roddickton’s plant and sawmill up and running.
“It could be that those funds invested in that plant previously were not lost – it could be that jobs could happen quicker,” Spinks said.
He estimates it would take about 120 days to get it operating.
Active Energy is also looking at a wharf in St. Anthony that Spinks says the company would negotiate for once it is available.
He estimates five to seven company vessels would come into St. Anthony harbour per year.
Spinks believes the province has a resource here that is not being utilized. He feels Active Energy’s role in this operation would be to provide the infrastructure, funding, and a market to enable the province to successfully harvest this resource, in turn creating employment and boosting the economy.
In terms of managing and preserving the Northern Peninsula’s forests, Spinks says the Canadian government is very careful and there are strict rules in place dictating what can be done, how it can be done, where it can be done, and when.
“Canada is one of the most significant forestry nations in the world and they know exactly, perfectly well how they should manage their forestry,” he said.
He adds that Active Energy is working with Canadian advisors who are involved in every step of the process as they liaise with government. Spinks believes the biggest concern is respect for the caribou population.
But people will continue to have their usual access to the land and its resources.
“We’re not buying it, we’re not owning it,” said Spinks.
During his visit to the region, Spinks also met with Roddickton-Bide Arm mayor Sheila Fitzgerald on Sept. 19.
Fitzgerald believes a pellet plant operation in Roddickton would mobilize the town and provide hope to alter an expected population decline by 2036, as identified in the Harris Centre report.
“This could mean our children staying, young families from away returning home to raise their children, and a workforce equipped to care for our aging seniors,” she said. “This will mean economic development opportunities for the entire Northern Peninsula, providing both direct and indirect benefits.”
Active Energy intends for the Northern Peninsula pellet plant to just be one of a number of operations throughout the province.
Spinks says the provincial government would guide the company where to go next.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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