Project to Commercialize Agricultural Biomass for Combustion Energy - Terms of Reference

Table of Contetnts

  1. Purpose
  2. Objectives
  3. Anticipated Outcomes if Agricultural Biomass is Commercialized
  4. Deliverables
  5. Principles and Guidelines of the Project
  6. Oversight
  7. Steering Committee Decision-Making and Other Operating Guidelines


The Ontario government has committed to fighting climate change by eliminating coal-fired electricity generation at government-owned facilities by the end of 2014. This action will achieve the single largest greenhouse gas reduction in Ontario. Towards this goal, the November, 2010 Long Term Energy Plan states that "Ontario will consider the possible conversion of some of the units at Nanticoke and Lambton to natural gas, if necessary for system reliability... Ontario will continue to explore opportunities for co-firing of biomass with natural gas for any units converted to natural gas." The Ministerial directive to Ontario Power Authority to guide their preparation of an integrated power system plan indicates that a decision on conversion of the Nanticoke and Lambton thermal stations and the potential role agricultural biomass might play, will be made in 2012.

Within this context, Ontario Power Generation (OPG)'s Thermal Repowering Program is exploring options to convert some of its coal-fuelled electricity generating stations to natural gas and/or forest or agriculture-based biomass.

In the meantime, other markets and opportunities are emerging. The cement industry, and greenhouse operators, for example, are seeking alternative sources of energy to "green" their production, reduce costs and prepare for potential regulation of greenhouse gas emissions through a cap and trade system. Other potential opportunities include distributed electricity generation and combined heat and power systems.

The agricultural sector in Ontario is represented by a large and diverse number of organizations including general farm organizations, producer groups and cooperatives that are interested in the value chains and business models associated with the utilization of agricultural biomass for energy generation. Consequently, there is a need to co-ordinate and focus the efforts of the agricultural and rural sectors, researchers and key partners to validate the long-term prospects of this business opportunity.


The purpose of this project is to coordinate the analysis of the feasibility of a commercial agricultural biomass industry for combustion energy in Ontario and, if feasible, set the foundation for the industry.


  1. To explore different markets and value chains that may involve agricultural biomass
  2. To advance the analysis of the cost effectiveness, environmental sustainability and technical feasibility of developing a commercial agricultural biomass industry in Ontario for combustion energy
  3. To identify and help fill research gaps
  4. If found to be viable and sustainable, to help develop a commercial agricultural biomass industry in Ontario with a production capability for fuel to match anticipated market demands
  5. To promote and help develop opportunities for the agricultural sector and rural communities in Ontario to fully participate in the green economy through provision of renewable feedstocks to replace fossil fuels

Anticipated Outcomes if Agricultural Biomass is Commercialized

  1. Reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel conversions
  2. Creation of new jobs and investments in the emerging Ontario green economy
  3. Creation of a robust market for Ontario agricultural biomass for energy generation
  4. Participation of the Ontario agricultural sector in different biomass for energy value chains
  5. Potential opportunity for the Ontario agricultural sector to participate in the carbon offsets market through upcoming GHG cap and trade program(s)


This project focuses on the following key deliverables through structured conferences, workshops, web-based tools, outreach programs, and, as necessary, through sponsored research:

  • Support, co-ordinate and transfer information and research that enables the feasibility of agricultural biomass commercialization to be assessed. The specific needs include:
    • Learning from the experience in other jurisdictions
    • Identifying and addressing regulatory, policy, institutional, infrastructure, fiscal, financial and technological barriers to the utilization of agricultural biomass for energy generation throughout the value chain
    • Develop technical knowledge to support informed response to public and other stakeholder inquiries
    • Identifying suitable purpose-grown energy crops and agricultural residues in different growing regions considering yields, harvesting equipment, harvesting strategies, soil types, etc.
    • Assessing producer costs of production, costs and efficiencies throughout biomass energy value chains and economic feasibility relative to other energy sources
    • Assessing strategies for storage, transportation, and delivery
    • Undertaking greenhouse gas (GHG) lifecycle analyses and environmental sustainability assessments for a group of representative crops (i.e. purpose-grown energy crops and crops providing residues for energy)
    • Characterizing densified agricultural biomass potential (energy content, densification options, combustion chemistry, ash and emissions) and addressing limitations such as chemistry challenges
    • Determining crop production optimization practices to maximize fuel quality and minimize technical, health and safety and environmental concerns
  • If found to be viable and sustainable, work with a network of producers of agricultural biomass and build the knowledge and capacity to establish a value chain to meet the requirements of key interested biomass users including OPG
  • Identify a contingent of financially and technically capable agricultural biomass aggregators including co-operatives and/or other businesses

Principles and Guidelines of the Project

Functionally, the project is guided by the following principles and guidelines:

  1. The project will serve as catalyst for developing the agricultural biomass energy industry if economically viable and sustainable, and assisting with technology/knowledge transfer.
  2. It will promote a collaborative approach among biomass producer groups (growers, processors and suppliers), as well as industry, academia and government.
  3. The project will be a "virtual" organization supported by in-kind contribution of effort by participating organizations and corporations, in addition to minimal staff support by OPG and OMAFRA.
  4. A variety of funding agencies may support individual projects/tasks. This project will provide an overall coordination role.
  5. Products of this project (e.g., research reports, etc.) will be in the public domain.
  6. The duration of the project will be determined by OPG and OMAFRA. It will be a time-limited project, the progress of which will be reviewed no later than two years after commencement.
  7. Provincial support for the commercialization of the agricultural biomass industry will remain within the purview of decision-makers in the provincial government.


This project is overseen by a Steering Committee of industry, governments and other interested parties, co-chaired by OPG and OMAFRA. The Steering Committee provides guidance and direction for the project.

The Steering Committee may include representation from:

  • Ontario Power Generation (2 representatives)
  • Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (2 representatives)
  • Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure (1 representative)
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (1 representative)
  • Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition (1 representative)
  • Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (1 representative)
  • Ontario Federation of Agriculture (1 representative)
  • Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (1 representative)
  • Norfolk ALUS Pilot Project (1 representative)
  • Industry (3 representatives)
  • Academia (1 representative)
  • First Nations (1 representative)

Steering Committee Decision-Making and Other Operating Guidelines

A. Steering Committee Members

  1. Each member or their organization will name an alternate member; only the Member or his/her alternate is to participate in each meeting, not both.
  2. Steering Committee members shall address broad interests and issues that will advance the Project, rather than the interests and issues of the organizations they represent or individual business interests.
  3. The role of each Steering Committee member is to:
      • Attend and actively participate in all official meetings. Meetings will be held approximately quarterly. Additional meetings for special purposes will be held, as agreed upon by the members.
      • Continue the Committee's work between meetings, as needed.
      • Share information with other Committee members and provide guidance and direction to the Project.
      • Work with other Committee members to co-coordinate events, meetings and activities.
      • Consider the advice and recommendations of the Working Groups (see E below).
      • Work with other members to attempt to reach consensus on decisions before the Committee.
  4. Members may not act as official spokespersons for the Steering Committee.
  5. Members may publicly discuss matters noted in Committee meeting minutes, which will serve as the official written record of the Committee's work.
  6. Work of the Committee (e.g. reports, recommendations) that is in draft form shall not be shared beyond the Committee.

B. Co-chairs

  1. The Co-chairs consist of one representative from OPG and one representative from OMAFRA.
  2. Alternates for the Co-chairs are the second of the two OPG representatives and the two OMAFRA representatives on the Steering Committee.
  3. The Co-chairs act as spokespersons for the committee and will approve official communications about the Steering Committee's work.
  4. The Co-chairs alternate the role of Steering Committee meeting Chair, or make other mutually agreed arrangements for chairing.
  5. The role of the meeting Chair is to:
      • Preside over meetings
      • Preserve order and decide all questions of order
      • Assist the Steering Committee in reaching a consensus
      • Assign other roles, other than those listed in A4, to Steering Committee members, as appropriate

C. Steering Committee Decisions

  1. The Steering Committee provides advice for the consideration of OPG and the provincial ministries (OMAFRA and MEI).
  2. A quorum shall be a majority of Steering Committee members. If a quorum is not reached at a given meeting, this must be noted in the minutes. However, discussions may proceed.
  3. The Steering Committee is expected to arrive at decisions through consensus.
  4. If consensus cannot be reached on a particular issue, the various positions will be recorded in meeting minutes.

D. Provincial Government Decisions

  1. Decisions that are solely the purview of OPG or the provincial government, such as OPG or provincial funding of initiatives, projects or research and OPG or provincial government policy and programs, are not within the capacity of the Steering Committee to make.
  2. While the Steering Committee may provide advice on these items, decisions will rest with these agencies.

E. Working Groups

  1. OPG and OMAFRA may establish Working Groups which consist of a broad spectrum of knowledgeable individuals and agency representatives.
  2. The Steering Committee may make recommendations to OPG and OMAFRA for suitable persons to appoint to Working Groups.
  3. The composition of Working Groups will vary over time based on the issues being explored.
  4. Members of the Steering Committee can participate in Working Groups if they wish to do so.
  5. Working Group meetings are open to the public.
  6. The role of the Working Groups is to:
    • Provide subject-matter advice to the Steering Committee on issues related to the project's Objectives and Deliverables
    • Accept submissions and representations by agricultural and other stakeholders for potential advice to the Steering Committee
    • Attend meetings and perform other tasks as defined by OPG and OMAFRA, at the request of the Steering Committee

F. Public Access, Confidentiality and Delegations

  1. Steering Committee meetings are open to Steering Committee members/alternates (subject to A2 above) and to support staff from OPG and OMAFRA (subject to G, below).
  2. Minutes from Steering Committee meetings will be publicly available documents and will include both contextual information and documentation of decisions made.
  3. Products of the Project, such as research reports, will be made publicly available.
  4. Members of the public or representatives of organizations may be considered for a delegation to the Steering Committee on their own request or the request of a Steering Committee member made in writing or by e-mail to the Co-chairs, setting out the issue to be presented to the Committee. This request must be made at least three working days prior to the meeting at which the presentation would be made.
  5. Upon completion of a presentation to the Steering Committee by a delegation, members may ask questions for clarification or request additional information. Steering Committee members must not enter into debate with the delegation.

G. Resources

  1. Staff from OPG and OMAFRA will provide essential coordination and support to the Steering and Advisory Committees. This includes agenda and minute preparation and distribution, meeting co-ordination, and follow-up to action items, as appropriate.

H. Declaration of Interest

  1. Steering Committee and Working Group members have an obligation to disclose personal or pecuniary interests that could raise a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest and refrain from discussing such matters in the course of their work on the Committees.
  2. Personal or pecuniary interests are interests in which a Steering Committee or Working Group member, members of their family, employer, or the organization which the member represents in another capacity other than employment (e.g. as a member of the Board of Directors) could gain or lose financially as a result of the decision made on an issue considered by the Committee or Working Groups.

I. Maintenance and Refinement of Terms of Reference

  1. The Terms of Reference will be maintained by support staff.
  2. The Terms of Reference will be reviewed approximately annually.
  3. Amendments may be made by the Steering Committee, subject to the agreement of OPG and OMAFRA.

J. Reimbursement of Committee Members

  1. The involvement of Steering Committee and Working Group members is strictly voluntary and reimbursements for expenses will not be provided.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 18 July 2011
Last Reviewed: 18 July 2011