Federal Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson, in Regina, on June 28. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

REGINA – On June 28, Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson announced investments totalling over $7 million for four energy projects affiliated with Indigenous organizations or communities in Saskatchewan. The announcement was part of the federal government’s ongoing efforts to increase “clean energy” production, along its plan for Net Zero by 2050 (and Net Zero by 2035 for power production.)

The funding is provided through the Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways (SREPs) program and will enhance the understanding of energy use support renewable energy development and deployment in partnership with Indigenous people. It’s a $1.56-billion program that provides support for smart renewable energy and electrical grid modernization projects, including projects that support capacity building.

Wilkinson was speaking to the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce in Regina when he made the announcements. He also announced $10 million for a biorefinery project at Carrot River, and the following day, a $50 million contribution towards a several hundred million dollar 200 megawatt wind project near Kipling which has Cowessess First Nation as a 17 per cent partner. That $50 million is essentially Cowessess’ stake in the project.

“The Government of Canada is supporting Indigenous communities and businesses in Saskatchewan to carry out projects that deliver clean and affordable energy. These projects are critical to building long-term prosperity, energy security and affordability, while advancing Canada’s ambitious climate goals,” the Natural Resources Canada press release said.

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These projects include:

  • $4,300,000 for Pisim Energy Limited Partnership to deploy two one-megawatt bi-facial solar arrays located in Weyburn. The project will create a new revenue source from renewable energy for Ochapowace Nation, while creating employment opportunities during construction and operations.
  • $2,310,563 for Lac La Ronge Indian Band to hire and train community energy coordinators in six Indigenous communities while providing local training, workshops and community engagement to increase understanding of energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities. The project will also create community energy plans to improve energy efficiency, reduce GHG emissions and implement local energy solutions in the communities.
  • $344,565 for Red Dog Holdings Limited Partnership, the economic development arm of Star Blanket Cree Nation, to build capacity for the implementation of renewable energy projects in their community by training and employing an energy project coordinator, developing a community energy plan, and providing inclusive community engagement and education initiatives, including energy education and training for staff and leadership, Elders and youth.
  • $141,250 for Saskatchewan Power Corporation to build capacity with a comprehensive microgrid feasibility study for the northern settlement of Descharme Lake, that would replace the electric utility interconnection with an efficient, clean and smart microgrid that will improve grid reliability for the community.

“These investments demonstrate the Government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to support projects that move toward a clean and sustainable electricity grid while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing economic reconciliation and fighting climate change,” the release said.

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Wilkinson said in a release, “Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, but it is also an immense economic opportunity. Building out a clean electricity grid by developing, deploying and operating renewable energy sources means good jobs, lower emissions and economic growth for communities in every region of Canada. Through these investments, the federal government is working with leading Indigenous communities to unlock Saskatchewan’s immense potential to thrive in a low-carbon future.”

Jonathan Cheszes, lead consultant on behalf of Pisim Energy Limited Partnership, said, “Pisim Energy Limited Partnership is working to build capacity within Ochapowace Nation as well as providing a long-term revenue stream to support wealth creation through these two solar projects. This is the first step in a longer-term partnership to develop larger solar projects in Saskatchewan.”

Lynda Bigknife, CEO, Star Blanket Cree Nation/Red Dog Holdings Ltd., said, “The SREP Capacity-Building Funding is creating an opportunity for Star Blanket Cree Nation to continue to lead the way in renewable energy projects in Saskatchewan by building capacity in our community members, staff and leadership to lead meaningful projects that lead to long-term benefits for our community. As a Nation that already has a number of utility-scale projects underway, the SREP Capacity-Building Project is creating an opportunity to bring this work home to our people through the development of a Community Energy Plan and the training of a local Energy Project Coordinator in our community. We are honoured to be among the projects selected in Saskatchewan and are working with our trusted partners and consultants to deliver a project that creates long-term opportunities in our community while moving Saskatchewan and Canada forward in low-carbon electricity.”

Tammy Cook-Searson, chief, Lac La Ronge Indian Band, said, “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Government of Canada for its significant contribution to our Indigenous communities through the Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways program. This funding enables us to advance sustainable energy solutions, stimulate job creation, facilitate pivotal training and enhance community involvement. By equipping our community members with knowledge about energy efficiency and renewable energy, we not only empower them but also help in creating a future that aligns with our collective ambition of reducing GHG emissions and fighting climate change. This financial backing goes beyond just funding — it’s a pledge to our future, our growth and our dedication to safeguarding the land that nourishes us and on which our survival depends.”

In his speech to the Chamber, Wilkinson said, “We must do these things to be able to bring forward a future that is far more sustainable in the situation in which we presently find ourselves. At this historic moment, the environmental movement, which has at times, found itself to be in opposition to some development, will need to become comfortable with an enhanced focus on building things. In the right way for sure, but building things.”

 

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Natural Resources Minister has faith electric tractors are coming

Wilkinson says there are two paths: one “accepts the scientific reality of climate change,” the other “is blind hope”

Jonathan Wilkinson’s full Just Transition speech, verbatim

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