First Nation-owned power company aims to connect communities

Create: 01/12/2017 - 03:45

Community member Brandon Rae explains the map to the employee of the power company at the transmission project meeting in North Spirit Lake. Photo by James McKenny Rae.

Wataynikaneyap Power is connecting 17 remote First Nation communities currently served by diesel generation to Ontario’s provincial electricity grid. The company held a meeting in North Spirit Lake on Nov. 9, where Franz Siebel, Research Director of Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) Research Institute, said that they hope to have a “final route” for the transmission project decided by summer 2017.

The meeting in North Spirit Lake (NSL) is part of the company’s ongoing planning process to determine where the transmission line will be located and built. Siebel described the project as a “power transmission line that is going to come from Red Lake all the way to North Spirit Lake” connecting NSL and communities along the line to the provincial power grid, in an effort to reduce the use of diesel power generation, and make electricity in the remote communities more reliable.

Seibel said the corridor for the power line will cut through forested areas but noted that hunting and traditional land use are important factors in determining the best route for the project. “If we cut the trees and run a line across their trap lines or across traditional territories, they need to be aware of the impacts of that and they need provide permission to us.”

Seibel, representing KO as a liaison between communities and the power company, was joined by representatives from Wataynikaneyap Power to gather information from NSL community members and from the First Nation’s Land & Use office to determine the best route for the transmission line. According to Siebel, North Spirit Lake is “one of most advanced in collecting that information”, which he attributes to previous research and negotiations regarding potential mining near the community. He also noted the First Nation is a “community open to visitors, [and] open to meeting with us about something we need to know is going to be right for the community.”

Wataynikaneyap Power L.P. is a company owned by 22 First Nation communities including North Spirit Lake First Nation, in partnership with ForisOntario and RES Canada (Fortis-RES). Representing NSLFN is Deputy Chief Donald Campbell, who sits on the company’s board of directors.

Seibel said, “[North Spirit Lake] is an owner of this company and so we need to hear from the people in all sort of ways, from open houses, to email, and visiting with people.”

“This is a major achievement and I am pleased recognize to the tremendous work that Wataynikaneyap Power has accomplished to bring reliable supplies of electricity to northern and remote communities,” said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler in Wanakoosh Magazine this fall. “We are pleased that Ontario has identified this project as a priority. We hope that Watay Power’s application to the Ontario Energy Board OES and all environmental assessment work is completed and approved as quickly as possible so that construction can begin on schedule to connect all these communities to the grid by 2024. Many of our First Nation communities still rely on diesel generation for electricity but the cost of electricity generated by diesel is considerably greater than energy costs in cities across Ontario. The Watay Power consortium is designed to significantly reduce the financial burden for many First Nations while eliminating the health, safety and environmental impacts associated with diesel generation.”

Date Published: 
Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 03:45