Ontario Working in Partnership with Northern First Nations to End Reliance on Diesel Fuel

Province and First Nations establishing new clean electricity supply options

April 04, 2024

Office of the Premier

Energy

The Ontario government is working in partnership with Webequie, Nibinamik, Neskantaga, Eabametoong and Marten Falls First Nations to expand clean and reliable electricity transmission and generation infrastructure to end these communities’ reliance on diesel powered generators and support greater economic self-determination and prosperity.

“We’re partnering with First Nations and northern Ontario communities to build the energy infrastructure they need to succeed after decades of neglect by previous governments,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Just as Ontario eliminated its reliance on coal, we want to work with all First Nations that wish to partner with us to replace their reliance on diesel-generated electricity with clean and reliable electricity. By working in partnership and putting First Nations’ input and interests first, we can help these communities create jobs, own and build infrastructure and housing and support long-term economic growth.”

Through the historic Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Project, which the government is supporting with a construction loan of up to $1.34 billion that started in 2019 and is expected to be completed this year, 16 remote diesel-dependent partner First Nations will be connected to Ontario’s world-class clean electricity grid for the first time. However, other remote First Nation communities across northern Ontario continue to rely on costly, difficult to transport and unreliable diesel generation for electricity, which is a significant source of noise and emissions and limits opportunities for growth, including new community infrastructure and housing. Diesel fuel is currently trucked in seasonally on unreliable winter roads or flown in at massive expense.

These First Nations communities deserve the same opportunity to connect to and participate in the benefits of Ontario’s clean electricity grid, which is why the government is working closely with interested First Nations partners to identify clean electricity supply options that meet their unique needs.

“Through the Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Project, our government has helped 16 remote First Nations connect to Ontario’s clean electricity grid for the first time,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Energy. “Now we are looking forward to working in partnership with other remote First Nations communities to explore options to get off diesel generation to improve quality of life and open the door to new opportunities for these communities.”

The provincial government will prioritize the input and direction of the First Nations leadership and communities when informing a comprehensive plan to get remote and far north communities off diesel. Engagement with these communities will also help inform the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO’s) ongoing Northern Ontario Connection Study looking at energy supply and connection opportunities in northern Ontario, including for the five diesel-reliant Matawa First Nations and new hydroelectric generation.

Building energy infrastructure such as transmission lines to connect the communities to the provincial electricity grid or local clean energy supply solutions would provide significant economic and environmental benefits for communities through emissions reductions, enhanced electricity reliability and economic and partnership opportunities.

“As Minister of Indigenous Affairs, I have the opportunity to hear from Indigenous leadership across the North and across the province on what matters most to their communities, and increasingly, our government is hearing that communities wish to transition off of diesel to a cleaner and more reliable source of electricity,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Northern Development. “Reliable electricity unlocks limitless potential for Northern communities, and our government understands that fortifying corridors leads to prosperity for First Nation communities and improved health, social and economic outcomes.”


Quick Facts

  • Ontario launched the largest clean energy storage procurement in Canada’s history in 2022. More than half of the energy storage projects selected to date have had at least 50 per cent indigenous ownership, creating new opportunities for local communities to be a partner in Ontario’s clean energy future.
  • Indigenous participation, leadership, and support for energy projects is a key feature of electricity procurement initiatives in Ontario’s energy sector as highlighted in Powering Ontario’s Growth.