The $60 million in federal funding to connect the Pikangikum First Nation to Ontario’s electricity grid is a major step forward in helping many First Nations communities in the province kick the diesel habit. The Pikangikum Power Line Project, a 117 km of transmission line, is scheduled to start construction in October with completion anticipated in November 2018.
"Investing upwards of $60 million to bring reliable energy to Pikangikum will enhance sustainable socio-economic initiatives that the community [has] been struggling to develop for many years," said Margaret Kenequanash, CEO at Wataynikaneyap Power. "It will help build and improve community development, infrastructure and housing that will provide stability in Pikangikum.
“This means that Pikangikum can move forward with infrastructure, economic development and community growth. And now that Wataynikaneyap Power has achieved this success, we can focus on the rest of the remote First Nation communities being connected,” added Chief Dean Owen.
The project is part of the much larger 1800 km Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project, a First Nations led project that will connect remote First Nations communities to the Ontario electricity grid. It’s being led by a partnership between Wataynikaneyap Power (22 First Nations communities have an equal stake and own 51%) and FortisOntario Inc., which owns 49%.
Currently, 17 of these communities aren’t connected to the provincial grid, relying on very expensive diesel to power their homes and businesses. The situation has become financially unsustainable, environmentally risky, and inadequate to meet community needs, the communities say.