THUNDER BAY – The three-day Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Chiefs Energy Conference wrapped up today at the Valhalla Inn. The NAN Chiefs are calling for all NAN communities to be connected to the Ontario Power Grid. “We have serious issues regarding sustainable and affordable electrical energy in our communities,” said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy. “While we are making strides in planning for the future of generation and transmission, we must deal on a daily basis with our current needs and challenges. 2018 is a reasonable timeline to complete the power grid expansion and connect all NAN communities to the transmission system.”
The NAN Chiefs reaffirm unity, strength and success to work together in creating an energy strategy to overcome short term and long term issues in First Nation communities. Diesel generation and inadequate transmission is neither acceptable nor sustainable for the people and industries in NAN territory.
NAN communities are facing what has become an annual crisis regarding the supply of diesel fuel without a long term plan to address the crisis currently enabled by federal and provincial governments. For example, Independent Power Authorities (IPAs) in diesel dependent communities bring in roughly eight million litres of diesel fuel a year. At an annual estimated cost of $9-million, many IPA-dependent communities cannot afford to bring in the fuel to help power homes and schools.
Poor winter roads make the costs of flying in the fuel even higher.
NAN Chiefs will be developing an immediate strategy including consistent, committed funding to supply diesel fuel to their communities.
For a long term solution, NAN Chiefs expect a transmission system that will put all NAN communities on the power grid by 2018, with a target date of 2015 for some local initiatives.
The power grid extension would be part of the Ontario power grid, but owned and operated by NAN regional utilities. Planning, construction, and eventual ownership will be in the hands of First Nations to stimulate economic growth and provide for business opportunities, as well as enable the development of renewable power generation within NAN communities.
The strategy will be supported by establishing a task force that will facilitate the implementation of an energy strategy to eliminate dependency on diesel and establish electrification of the North.
NAN Chiefs reaffirm that we are sovereign nations. It is our responsibility to ensure that Canada lives up to its obligation to uphold and implement its treaties made with the Crown, with the spirit and intent that is understood by our Elders. We have an inherent title to the land; and therefore, we have the right to share in the benefits of the resources taken from our territories.