News — 01 November 2017

By Dryden Observer Staff

There was a mixed regional reaction this week to the Province’s of Ontario’s newly released Long-Term Energy Plan document.

On the whole, the latest revision of the evolving roadmap for Ontario’s Energy sector is, in the words of Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, ‘principally focused on the consumer’ — touting the Wynne Liberal’s recent Fair Hydro Plan as its primary accomplishment.

“We have already taken steps through Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan to make the electricity system as affordable as possible,” said Thibeault in a Minister’s address in the plan. “Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan reduced electricity bills for residential consumers by an average of 25 per cent and will hold any increases to the rate of inflation for four years. These benefits aren’t limited to residential consumers; as many as half a million small businesses and farms are also benefitting from the reduction. Lower-income Ontarians and those living in eligible rural and northern communities are receiving even greater reductions, as much as 40 to 50 per cent.”

The Northern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) says the plan was ‘not worth waiting for’ as it fails to offer any new ideas and leaves unaddressed concerns around the Atikokan and Thunder Bay Generating Stations and the need for transmission upgrades in the Greenstone area.

“It is incredible that there is no mention to renewing the fuel contracts for the Atikokan and Thunder Bay Generation Stations even though the output will be required to meet the needs of the Northwest, and that Minister Thibeault himself has publicly indicated that “Atikokan and Thunder Bay generating stations will play a different role but a key role, going forward,” said NOMA President Wendy Landry. “The Minister is on the record of telling the Atikokan Progress that the 20-year long term plan will be out soon, and the Atikokan Generating Station will be there.”

Yet, for some regional players in the transmission game like Wataynikaneyap Power, recognition of their ongoing project to strengthen existing infrastructure and connect 22 First Nations to the power grid was a big boost.

The 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan recognized and anticipated construction of a new transmission line to Pickle Lake by 2020 to support the push north, with the first phase of work scheduled to start in January 2019. In the meantime, work has already begun to connect Pikangikum First Nation, one of the 22 First Nations who are part of Wataynikaneyap Power, to Ontario’s power grid after a $60 million funding announcement earlier this summer by the Government of Canada.

“We are incredibly encouraged by the Ontario Government’s ongoing support for the project and look forward to the day when we can tie into the provincial electricity grid and provide our communities with safe, reliable and clean energy,” says Margaret Kenequanash, CEO for Wataynikaneyap Power. “Connection to the grid will open the door for us to start building the infrastructure we so desperately need.”

You can read or download the Province’s Long-Term Energy Plan at www.ontario.ca/document/2017-long-term-energy-plan.

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Chris Marchand is a native of Dryden, Ontario. He served his first newspaper internship at The Dryden Observer in 1998 while attending journalism studies at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops B.C. He's worked desks as both reporter and editor at the Fernie Free Press as well as filled the role of sports editor at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman. Marchand was named editor of the Dryden Observer in Aug. 2009.

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