Ontario and First Nations Forge Path to Clean Energy Future

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Collaborative Effort Aims to Replace Diesel Power with Clean Electricity in Northern Communities

THUNDER BAY – The Ontario government has announced a partnership with Webequie, Nibinamik, Neskantaga, Eabametoong, and Marten Falls First Nations. This initiative aims to revolutionize electricity transmission and generation infrastructure, transitioning these communities from reliance on diesel generators to clean, reliable electricity sources.

This move is not only environmentally significant but also a crucial step towards economic prosperity for the involved communities.

Premier Doug Ford emphasized the commitment to building necessary energy infrastructure after years of governmental overlook. “This partnership with First Nations signifies a shared goal towards economic growth, job creation, and sustainable energy solutions,” Ford said. The initiative draws inspiration from Ontario’s success in eliminating coal dependency, aiming to mirror this achievement by moving First Nations communities from diesel to cleaner electricity options.

The heart of this initiative is the Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Project, a groundbreaking effort supported by a $1.34 billion construction loan from the government. This project, slated for completion this year, will connect 16 remote diesel-dependent First Nations to Ontario’s clean electricity grid for the first time.

Electric power across the North is often produced by diesel generators in stations like this one in Bearskin Lake First Nation
Electric power across the North is often produced by diesel generators in stations like this one in Bearskin Lake First Nation

However, the journey doesn’t end here; several other communities continue to depend on diesel, a costly and environmentally damaging energy source. The government’s ongoing mission is to bring these communities into the fold of Ontario’s clean energy grid.

Energy Minister Todd Smith highlighted the strides made through the Wataynikaneyap Power project and expressed enthusiasm for future collaborations to transition additional remote communities away from diesel generation. “Our aim is to improve the quality of life and unlock new opportunities for these communities through cleaner energy solutions,” stated Smith.

A significant aspect of this transition is the government’s commitment to prioritizing the input and leadership of First Nations communities.

This collaborative approach will guide a comprehensive strategy to replace diesel with cleaner energy alternatives, aligning with the ongoing Northern Ontario Connection Study by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Northern Development, underscored the importance of reliable electricity for unlocking the potential of Northern communities. “Transitioning to a cleaner and more dependable electricity source is a key desire among Indigenous communities, paving the way for enhanced social, economic, and health outcomes,” Rickford remarked.

Chief Solomon Atlookan of Eabametoong First Nation voiced the collective anticipation and commitment of the First Nations involved. “Our journey towards energy sovereignty is pivotal for our community’s growth and well-being. Collaborating with the Ontario government and our neighbouring communities sets a path toward a brighter, more sustainable future,” Atlookan shared.

This partnership marks a historic step towards integrating Indigenous communities into Ontario’s clean energy future, emphasizing indigenous leadership and participation in the province’s energy sector advancements.

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