There are 32 remote communities in Ontario
with electricity generation and distribution systems that are not connected to
the provincial transmission grid. Of
these, 25 are recognized First Nations communities in Northwestern Ontario with
a combined on-reserve population of approximately 15,000 people, and with a
peak electricity demand of approximately 20 megawatts (MW). Both population and
electricity demand have been growing faster than other regions of Ontario.
The communities are dispersed along an 800 km
arc starting from approximately 90 km north of Red Lake to about 160 km east to
Pickle Lake. None of the communities north
of Red Lake and Pickle Lake have access to all-season transportation or utility
corridors. The average distance separating
these communities is approximately 60 km, with distances ranging between 20 km and
90 km. These communities are considered remote
because most do not have all-season road access and/or they are not connected to
the IESO-controlled grid.
Electricity service within these communities
is supplied by diesel generation, which feeds local distribution grids. Diesel fuel can only be trucked in during the
limited winter road (ice road) availability; otherwise, the fuel must be flown
in, which is at least double the cost. Given
the challenges of fuel delivery, significant quantities of fuel must be purchased
and stored in the communities. Each year
the winter road season gets shorter and shorter, adding to these challenges.
Figure - Location of the Northwest Ontario Remote Communities
According to the Ontario Power Authority
The Independent Electricity System Operator
(“IESO” formerly “OPA”) estimates the current cost of diesel generation in the 25 Remote Communities
(both Hydro One Remote Communities Inc. – “HORCI” and Independent
Power Authorities – “IPA’s”) is approximately $90 million per year. Not only is diesel fuel expensive and
difficult to transport, but its use also has significant environmental and
Most remote First Nations communities are running
at or near maximum power capacity. This results in load restrictions and power outages.
Under a load restriction, new development cannot be added to the electrical system. New homes are
built but, in many cases, cannot be inhabited due to a lack of power. Limited diesel power capacity
is a major barrier to the development of sufficient, modern housing and community
facilities to serve remote populations. Remote communities may encounter dramatic overcrowding
and a lack of adequate community health and social services.
According to the Ontario Waterpower
Association (OWA), 275 MW of developable waterpower has been identified in
proximity to the remote First Nations communities. These renewable projects,
that include wind, water, solar energy projects, are not feasible without grid
connection. Other economic development, business and employment opportunities
are constrained due to a lack of accessible power.
Connecting remote First Nations communities was
identified as a priority in Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan (released December 2, 2013). The
Wataynikaneyap Project is currently planning for the grid connection of 17 of its 22 participating
communities (5 are already grid connected).
On July 20, 2016, the
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, by Order in Council:
as priority transmission projects pursuant to section 96.1 of the Ontario
Energy Board Act, 1998 the
construction of an electricity transmission line originating at a point between Ignace and Dryden
and terminating at Pickle Lake (the “Line to Pickle Lake”) and the construction of
electricity transmission lines extending north from Pickle Lake and Red Lake to connect 16 remote
communities (the “Remote Communities”) (the “Remotes Connection Project”); and
to section 28.6.1 of the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998 directed (the
“Directive”) the Ontario Energy Board
(the “OEB” or “Board”) to amend the electricity transmission license conditions of
2472883 Ontario Inc. on behalf of Wataynikaneyap Power LP (“Wataynikaneyap Power LP
“) to develop and seek approvals for the Line to Pickle Lake and
the Remotes Connection Project.