Ontario Construction News staff writer
A transmission project that will connect 17 First Nation communities to the power grid has secured all finances for the $1.9 billion construction and work will begin immediately.
Wataynikaneyap Power announced last week that it has achieved financial close and issued the notice to proceed to Valard LP for construction of 1,800 kilometres of transmission lines.
“Indigenous Peoples are very patient and resilient – they have been talking about energy for 28 years,” Margaret Keneqanash, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power said in a media release.
“Today we place our mark on history as we work towards a shared vision which will form the foundation for our future generations. We celebrate the moment of truth today, but tomorrow our commitment to the tasks before us becomes very real as the work begins in our effort to connect our First Nation communities on time.”
Construction can now begin with a targeted completion date of the end of 2023. The provincial government also provided a $1.34 billion loan for construction costs.
Called “unprecedented”, the project is majority-owned by 24 First Nations in partnership with Fortis and other private investors. It will build approximately 1,800 kilometres of transmission lines in Northwestern Ontario to connect 17 remote First Nations communities to the Ontario power grid, supplying energy to thousands of residents and eliminating the financially unsustainable and environmentally risky reliance of diesel generation. Pikangikum First Nation was the first community to be connected in December 2018.
The project will create an estimated 769 jobs during construction, close to $900 million in socio-economic value, along with many other new economic opportunities.
“Today marks a significant milestone for the 17 First Nations communities who will be connected to the main electricity grid in Ontario for the first time,” said Barry Perry, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fortis. “We are proud to work with our First Nations partners to bring cleaner and more reliable energy to their communities.”
Once operational, the new service will eliminate an estimated 6.6 million tonnes of Co2 equivalent GHG emissions over 40 years, contributing to a cleaner energy.
“I would like to recognize the hard work of the project team on achieving financial close, so we can (begin) construction of the line that brings light,” said Eliezar Mckay, Chair of First Nations LP.
“This significant milestone is only possible through co-operation and with the patience and support of our people as part of the bigger vision of building and owning a transmission line – we share in the excitement of this historic occasion.”
Valard was awarded the contract to design, procure materials and equipment, and build the 1,800 kilometres of transmission lines on Sept. 6.
“Valard has successfully and safely engineered and constructed some of the largest electric transmission projects in Canada,” said Barkley Adams, Valard’s president and CEO. “We want to thank Wataynikaneyap Power for selecting our company to safely execute on this project, and we look forward to working with the communities and beginning work immediately.”
The project will reinforce the existing transmission grid to Pickle Lake and will expand grid service north of Pickle Lake and Red Lake.