Canada approves funding for majority First Nation-owned $1.6 billion power transmission line

first nations
Chiefs and Board members from 18 Northwest Ontario First Nations, participating in the First Nations Holding Company promoting a new power transmission line into remote communities north of Sioux Lookout, met in Thunder Bay, Ontario on October 9, 2013. Present also were First Nations Councils employees and advisors to the project.

Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Line Project will connect remote First Nations communities to Ontario power grid, eliminate need for diesel electricity generation

One of the most ambitious and transformative infrastructure projects in Canada’s history got the green light today with the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario announcing funding for the Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Line Project in the aggregate amount of $1.6 billion, according to a press release.

The funding framework allows for a viable transmission business with First Nations and Fortis Inc. participating as the equity investors.

The project will connect remote First Nations in Northwestern Ontario to Ontario’s power grid, provide for savings associated with avoided diesel costs, and socio-economic benefits to the communities.

“Today’s announcement reinforces the vision of our elders who signed onto the treaty to share in the benefits of any major development that occurs in the homelands, originally contemplated by the First Law. It also brings us to another significant milestone to achieve the aspirations of our people,” said Margaret Kenequanash, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power.

Today’s funding announcement is the culmination of years of on-going negotiations and discussions since area Chiefs  were mandated with the investigation of connecting remote communities to the provincial transmission grid, premised on eventual 100 per cent First Nations ownership.

“The federal government is proud to support this historic Indigenous-led transmission project. This project became a reality because of the leadership of Wataynikaneyap Power and the federal and provincial commitment to work with First Nation communities to improve health and socioeconomic outcomes,” said Jane Philpott, minister of Indigenous services Canada.

“This will provide a future of positive change for these communities alongside a cleaner and more reliable energy supply.”

The Wataynikaneyap Power partnership consists of 22 First Nations who are leading this project and equally own 51 per cent, while industry partner, Fortis Inc., owns 49 per cent of the project.

Seventeen of the 22 First Nations Wataynikaneyap Power communities currently rely on diesel generators which have become financially unsustainable, environmentally risky and inadequate to meet community needs.

A majority of the remote communities are at capacity with their diesel generators or face electrical load restrictions limiting the construction of homes and other critical infrastructure that would support community growth.

“Connecting remote First Nation communities to Ontario’s safe, clean and reliable electricity grid is a priority for the Province, and is a key part of our plan to create fairness and opportunity for all Ontarians. By eliminating dependency on costly diesel generation, the Wataynikaneyap Power Project will create new economic opportunities and greatly improve the quality of life in these remote First Nation communities,” said Minister Glenn Thibeault, Ontario minister of energy.

“This project is an important step in Ontario’s journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

The funding framework goals include connection of remote First Nations communities, capacity building and the establishment of a viable transmission business to be eventually owned and operated 100% by First Nations.

“Utilities can play an important role in the social and economic development of First Nations communities in our country. Fortis is pleased to bring its expertise to the table in the construction and operation of 1,800 km of transmission lines,” said Barry Perry, CEO of Fortis Inc.

“Once complete, the lines will provide reliable electricity to the communities and help improve the lives of thousands of community members.”

In addition to the significant savings associated with the avoided cost of diesel generation, the Project is estimated to create 769 jobs during construction and nearly $900 million in socio-economic value.

These include lower greenhouse gas emissions (more than 6.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent GHG emissions are estimated to be avoided), as well as improved health of community members, and ongoing benefits from increased economic growth.

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