The Crown corporation responsible for regulating the electricity market in Ontario says there’s nothing keeping the threatened sawmill and co-generation plant in Hornepayne, Ont., from selling more power — it just won’t be to the province.

The Haavalsrud Timber Company told employees last week it would shut down the sawmill and Becker Cogeneration Plant if it did not come to an agreement with the province by Christmas. A complete shutdown would cost the township 146 jobs, or about 40 per cent of its workforce, its mayor has said.

According to a steward for the Steelworkers Union who works at the mill, the company told employees the shutdown could be avoided if the company is allowed to produce more power for the provincial grid.

But the Independent Electrical System Operator (IESO) says it is not accepting more power.

IESO spokeswoman Alexandra Campbell says the Hornepayne plant currently has a contract for 8 megawatts, which started in February last year and is valid until 2024.

Producers are free to generate more power than their contract, Campbell says.

“Generators are allowed to offer electricity outside of a contract into the electricity market. But then, there’s no guarantees. There are no contract guarantees about what kind of money they would earn.”

MPP says contract term is key

The MPP representing Hornepayne says he’s hopeful the company and the province will soon come to a power-producing agreement.

Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha says the timber company has been put into a “position of failure” by the province.

He says the mill needs a long-term commitment for buying and selling electricity.

“The concern is the longevity of their contract. They’re looking at extending it from 10 to 20 years. That would give them the financial security for them being in Hornepayne for the long-term period.”

At the same time, while he does not want to create false expectations on the viability of the operation, he hopes the province and mill can reach an agreement to ensure workers keep their jobs.