Pikangikum First Nation, in Ontario's remote Northwestern region, is currently using an outdated diesel generator to power the community. A power line connecting the First Nation to Ontario's electrical grid is expected to be completed in fall 2018
THUNDER BAY, Ont.— Federal officials have announced up to $60.2 million in funding for Northwestern Ontario’s Wataynikaneyap Power—a power transmission company owned by 22 First Nation communites and Newfoundland-based utilities firm Fortis Inc.—so it can build a 117-kilometre power line from Red Lake into the local distribution system at Pikangikum First Nation.
Construction on the power line will begin in fall 2017 with completion expected in fall 2018.
Once the project is complete, Pikangikum First Nation—north of Kenora, Ont., near the Ontario-Manitoba border—will be connected to the Ontario provincial electrical grid.
Pikangikum currently uses a diesel generating station to supply electricity, which is operated by Pikangikum as an Independent Power Authority—a non-regulated utility operator.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) says Pikangikum’s diesel station is about 38 years old and has long surpassed its life expectancy as a critical infrastructure asset.
INAC also says that this project is the result of long-term collaboration with the Ontario government to advance electrification of First Nation communities in Northern Ontario, and that it is a significant first step in eliminating Pikangikum’s dependence on diesel fuel.
“Connecting Pikangikum First Nation to the province’s electrical grid will do more than just provide reliable electricity to the community; it will reduce reliance on diesel, open up new economic development opportunities, and facilitate social infrastructure and programming for things like affordable housing, early learning, childcare, and community health care facilities,” said Bob Nault, member of Parliament for Kenora.
Connecting remote First Nations in Northwestern Ontario to the provincial electricity grid would save six megatons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 40 years, according to INAC.
The federal organization also says that in many communities, diesel generators are at capacity, limiting the potential to accommodate growing populations, businesses and other necessary infrastructure.
“I am thrilled that Pikangikum can look forward to a constant source of power to allow our local services to operate normally. We look forward to a safer and healthier future with power for heat and light on a consistent basis. Pikangikum can now move forward with infrastructure, economic development and community growth. It’s very exciting!” said Chief Dean Owen, Pikangikum First Nation.