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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Ontario government said on Wednesday it will seek bids to build a natural gas electricity plant in the greater Toronto area as the Canadian province looks to replace all its coal-fired generating plants.
The Ontario Power Authority, the province's energy planner, will accept bids for a combined-cycle, 850-megawatt natural gas plant, George Smitherman, Ontario's Energy and Infrastructure Minister, told reporters.
"We just want a reliable supply of energy when we flick the switch," Smitherman said at the site of the Lakeview coal-burning plant just west of Toronto, which was shut in 2005 as part of the government's plan to phase out all of the province's coal-fired generators.
"We don't want to rely on dirty coal-fired generation anymore and that's why we committed to shutting down all of Ontario's coal-fired generating plants by 2014."
Smitherman did not give a timetable for the bidding process or say when the plant could be operational. He said the power authority would run the bidding process and schedule.
The OPA did not return a call seeking more information.
Ontario, Canada's biggest electricity market, is closing its aging coal-fired plants because of health and environmental concerns and has been adding wind and gas-fired generation to take up the slack.
The government said the new natural-gas plant will produce half the greenhouse gases and far less nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide than an average coal-fired facility.
The government also said a planned 280-megawatt combined cycle gas-fired generating plant near Toronto proposed by Eastern Power has cleared the environmental approval process.
Additional reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Peter Galloway