THUNDER BAY – The Ontario Government took a significant step forward today in its plan to connect remote First Nations communities to the electricity grid by designating Wataynikaneyap Power as the transmission company to complete the project. “Many communities are in a crisis situation due to limited generation capacity compromising the health and safety of the people. Today’s commitment, and the prospect of grid connection, will change the landscape of how we do business moving forward,” says Margaret Kenequanash, Chair of Wataynikaneyap Power. “Our communities won’t have to rely on expensive, environmentally-unfriendly diesel fuel to provide power for basic needs like food, shelter and water. Today’s decision puts us one step closer to achieving the vision of owning a major infrastructure and having meaningful participation and benefitting from development on our traditional homelands.”
For the First Nations living in remote communities, connecting to the grid can’t come soon enough. In addition to the environmental and health impacts of relying on diesel generation, many communities are currently living under electrical load restrictions, which means new homes cannot be connected, economic development is restricted, and communities often face rolling blackouts.
Wataynikaneyap Power is an unprecedented, transformational partnership of 20 First Nations who have joined together with private sector companies FortisOntario and Renewable Energy Systems Canada Inc. (RES) to build 1,800 km of transmission lines.
“Designation is a milestone for the development of the Wataynikaneyap Transmission project. It will allow us to take the next step in our development work, and is a clear message that Ontario is committed to this Project,” says Scott Hawkes, President of Wataynikaneyap Power and Vice President of Corporate Services for FortisOntario Inc. (“FortisOntario”). “We will continue to work with our partners and look forward to working with stakeholders, the federal government, and impacted First Nations, to make this important project a reality.”
Wataynikaneyap Power has been working diligently for the past eight years to advance engineering, permitting, and completed several rounds of engagement, with potentially impacted communities. First Nations engagement and participation is of paramount importance and will be ongoing. The connection of remote First Nation communities to clean electricity through transmission lines was identified in Ontario’s 2013 Long Term Energy Plan.
“Connecting remote First Nation communities is expected to save over $1 billion compared to continued diesel generation, which is mostly subsidized by the federal government and provincial electricity ratepayers. In addition, the project is estimated to result in over 6.6 million tonnes of avoided CO2 greenhouse gas emissions,” says Jerry Vaninetti, Board Member for Wataynikaneyap Power and Senior Vice President, Market and Transmission Development of RES.
The $1.35 billion project includes the grid reinforcement to Pickle Lake, and expanding the grid north of Pickle Lake and Red Lake to connect remote First Nations communities. Pending permitting, approvals, and a cost sharing agreement between the federal and provincial government, construction is expected to begin in 2018.
About Wataynikaneyap Power:
Wataynikaneyap Power is owned by 20 First Nations communities, FortisOntario, and RES. The partnership will develop new transmission facilities to connect remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario, currently powered by diesel generation, which has become financially unsustainable, environmentally risky, and inadequate to meet community needs. More information about Wataynikaneyap Power can be found at www.wataypower.ca.
Since 1997, RES has constructed more than 1,600 km of transmission lines, and over 8,500 MW of utility-scale renewable energy and energy storage projects, throughout Canada and the U.S. RES’ corporate office in Canada is located in Montreal, Quebec with regional offices located in Oakville, Ontario. For more information, visit www.res-group.com/en/countries/canada/.
FortisOntario is an electric utility, which owns and operates Canadian Niagara Power Inc., Cornwall Street Railway Light & Power Company Ltd. and Algoma Power Inc., serving a combined 65,000 customers. FortisOntario also owns regulated transmission assets with approximately 3,430 km of distribution and transmission lines. FortisOntario is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fortis Inc. (“Fortis”) (TSX:FTS), with total assets of approximately CAD$28 billion and fiscal 2015 revenue of CAD$6.7 billion, serving more than 3 million customers across Canada, the United States and the Caribbean. For more information, visit www.fortisinc.com or www.sedar.com.