THUNDER BAY - A First Nations led power project is being recognized for its innovation and inspiration to Canadians across the country.
The Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Project has been named as a 2021 Clean50 Top Project award winner.
There were 24 projects chosen for the annual award this year, which is based on a project’s innovation, ability to inform, and inspire other Canadians.
“We are very proud to be recognized as a Clean50 top project. I think it reinforces the work we are doing and getting it to the finish line,” said Margaret Kenequanash, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power.
“It definitely is a boost for the work we are doing as well as bringing clean power to our communities and improving the infrastructure required for the communities because it will certainly open doors for other opportunities.”
The Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Project is a $1.9 billion First Nations-led initiative to connect 17 remote First Nation communities to the provincial transmission grid.
The project involves the building of approximately 1,800 kilometres of transmissions throughout Northern Ontario and will eliminate the reliance on diesel-fuelled generators.
According to Kenequanash, the project will result in 6.6 million tonnes of avoided green house gas emissions by replacing 25 million litres of diesel fuel usage a year.
“This is a major undertaking we have been working on over the last number of years to bring reliable energy and accessible energy to the north,” Kenequanash said.
“Part of that is replacing diesel energies. As we know, diesel is not as clean and could have a detriment to the environment if it ever became an issue.”
Pikangikum First Nation has already been hooked up to the provincial transmission grid and the goal is to have all 17 communities connected by 2023.
Kenequanash said work is continuing on site clearing, foundation, tower assembly, and the transmission lines.
The project has been deemed essential and not forced to shutdown as part of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions, but the pandemic has still presented some challenges.
“We have put in measures to address the health and safety concerns our communities have expressed and we have implemented a bubble concept and that seems to be working effectively,” Kenequanash said.
“We are managing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 within the project. We have had some non-negative cases in our project but there hasn’t been any stop to the project.”
“The progress we are making is tremendous in light of the challenges we have been facing. When COVID hit last March we implemented the measures we needed to put in place while keeping the project moving forward.”