Northern Ontario Grid Connection Project


On March 22, 2018, Minister Jane Philpott along with the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Minister of Energy, Glenn Thibeault, and CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power LP, Margaret Kenequanash, announced that 16 Northern Ontario First Nations will be connected to the provincial power grid. The announcement can be viewed online via Facebook.

The Wataynikaneyap Power’s Grid Connection Project

Wataynikaneyap Power is currently constructing a line to Pikangikum First Nation on an expedited basis to address their critical energy shortage; this is the first step in advancing this larger project. The Pikangikum grid connection was announced in August 2017 and is scheduled for completion by late 2018.

The Wataynikaneyap Power Project will connect First Nations who currently rely on diesel generation to the Ontario transmission grid; representing a population of over 14,000.

Following the grid connection to Pikangikum First Nation, the Wataynikaneyap Power Project is scheduled to be accomplished as one project, in two phases:

  • Phase 1: upgrading of the electrical system with a new line to Pickle Lake, Ontario is expected to begin in early 2019 with completion in late 2020.
  • Phase 2: construction for the connection of remote First Nation communities north of Red Lake and Pickle Lake will begin in 2019, with community connections starting in 2021, and all communities connected by the end of 2023.

The 16 communities to be connected by this project are:

Construction Schedule and Key Dates

Pikangikum Line Connection Project from Red Lake

  • Pre-development phase completed September 2017
  • Construction started in October 2017
  • Scheduled construction completion in late 2018

Phase 1 – New Transmission Line to Pickle Lake

  • Scheduled construction start in early 2019
  • Scheduled construction completion in late 2020

Phase 2 – Connection of 16 Remote First Nations communities

  • Scheduled construction start in 2019

Scheduled remote community connections for all communities by the end of 2023

Project Financing

  • On March 22nd, Canada and Ontario announced $1.6 billion in federal funding for Wataynikaneyap Power to connect 16 First Nations to the provincial power grid. In addition, Ontario will apply existing ratepayer subsidies to support transmission connection and distribution costs.
  • Connection of these communities is expected to result in lower total federal and provincial ratepayer costs over the long term through the reduction of costs for diesel power generation. Funding for the construction period costs will be financed by Wataynikaneyap Power with federal funding provided upon substantial completion of the project.
  • Canada will continue to support the operation and maintenance of diesel generation systems at each community until they become connected to the transmission grid.
  • Canada will continue to support the upgrades of the distribution systems in communities with Independent Power Authorities which will take place in advance of connection.
  •  Wataynikaneyap Power has indicated that it will pursue options to provide economic means to connect McDowell Lake First Nation to the project.

Economics and Environmental benefits

  • Wataynikaneyap Power estimates that economic benefits generated from the construction and development of the project are estimated to contribute $1,190 million and $957 million in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on a cumulative basis to Ontario and Canada respectively. In addition Wataynikaneyap Power estimates that during the construction period, the project will create over 261 jobs in Northwestern Ontario for a total of 769 across Canada.
  • The Wataynikaneyap Power Project will be the largest First Nation grid connection project in the history of the province and a model for development. The First Nations communities are working together and controlling development of major infrastructure within their traditional lands, which is unprecedented and will be a catalyst for greater prosperity and economic self-determination.

Leadership in Engaging Women and Youth

  • Wataynikaneyap Power’s CEO, Margaret Kenequanash, is an Indigenous woman who has worked with First Nation Tribal Councils in senior positions, was Chief of North Caribou Lake First Nation, and has a wide range of experience supporting community development initiatives.
  • Young women are inspired by Margaret’s dedication to her community and the way she has combined a modern work life with traditional values, to consider career options that have not been open to them in the past.
  • Wataynikaneyap Power is developing a strategy to engage First Nations men, women and youth in their technical training program, and to help facilitate the development of the technical skills needed in order for all to gain employment in the energy sector.

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