The federal government and GNWT are investing $1.2-million in the preliminary stages of Indigenous engagement and engineering work for the proposed Taltson hydrolink expansion.
A proposed expansion of the Taltson project, 64 kilometres north of Fort Smith on the Taltson River, would deliver 60 megawatts of energy to the North Slave hydroelectric system and will nearly triple the current hydro capacity of the NWT.
The Taltson project has the potential to displace diesel generation at the mines, making Canada “greener and more environmentally sustainable,” said Northern Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
The Taltson expansion project could remove up to 240,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year, said LeBlanc.
The potential drop in emissions represents 15 per cent of the territory’s emissions and nearly one third of its industrial emissions, he said.
Taltson will allow “important market access” for the territory, said LeBlanc.
The initial phase of investment will be funded by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), which has contributed $480,000 for engineering and participation of Indigenous groups in the hydro generation component.
“I think we’ve seen in recent court cases that if these projects are not done in consultation with and hopefully, in partnership with Indigenous communities in respect of their rights, they’re not going to be done easily and properly. If there isn’t a respect for science and for environmental assessment that’s truly independent and reflects the best scientific evidence in a transparent and open way, they become harder,” said LeBlanc.
“At the end of the day, there has to be a business case that makes all of this worthwhile. What’s exciting about the Taltson project is all these elements appear to be coming together in a very nice way,” he said.
CanNor contributed $480,000 to the project to support a feasibility and engineering work. The GNWT will invest $120,000.
Natural Resources Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) will provide $619, 950 to support Indigenous engagement for the project.
The CIRNAC funding is expected to support the participation of the NWT Metis Nation, Akaitcho communities and Salt River First Nation.
Salt River is a key partner the project would have to address because of treaty obligations in their traditional territory, said Chief Frieda Martselos.
“We have lands that are bordering the Taltson dam, but we are used to building partnerships and we’d like to see this project completed,” Martselos told NNSL Media.
“Consultation and engagement is very important. I feel very strongly that we will do that and I have great faith in all the partners that will be doing this expansion,” she said.
The system currently powers Fort Smith, Hay River, Hay River Reserve, Fort Resolution and Enterprise. The expansion is anticipated to cost more than $1-billion, demanding significant federal support if it is ever to be completed. Premier Bob McLeod said he wants to see additional funding before election time.
Asked if the federal government will pay the price for power expansion, LeBlanc stopped short of a full financial commitment but stated the federal government was interested in continued support for the project.
“That is a hypothetical question that we’re some time away from being able to answer,” said LeBlanc.
If the environmental and business case is strong, the federal government will use new financial tools like the recently founded Canada Infrastructure Bank to help the project along.
“Right across the country, premiers are talking to us and to each other about how we can get a much better effective transmission of clean, green energy across the country,” he said.
Energy is “very much part of a national discussion” and Canadians want governments to examine how they can achieve equitable energy access at competitive rates, said LeBlanc.
The first stage of expansion would boost capacity from 18 to 60 megawatts and link it to the Snare hydroelectric system near Yellowknife through a submarine cable across Great Slave Lake. The government is studying emerging submarine technologies that would improve a business case for the project.
The project will remove up to 240,000 tonnes of polluting emissions from the air annually, representing the equivalent of nearly 48,000 vehicles. Following phases of the expansion promise to connect the Taltson hydroelectric system with provincial networks to allow for north to south energy trade.
Premier Bob McLeod commended the investment and its potential business opportunities and Indigenous employment.
“This funding announcement is just step one,” he said, adding that the project will boost the territory’s ability to compete in the Canadian economy.
The GNWT has sought additional federal support to make “transformative investments in the NWT economy,” said McLeod.
“The Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion Project is more than a transmission project,” he said in a Jan. 23 news release.
“It represents a key element in the Government of the Northwest Territories vision for a lower carbon economy that will increase the availability of clean, renewable energy to help the NWT reduce its reliance on diesel, help lower the cost of living for NWT residents and allow the territory to meet its commitments to address climate change.”
Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann is in support of the project and its potential to provide industry with reliable power.
The project is “part of a full service infrastructure corridor that will provide clean energy to mineral-rich regions of the NWT and help our government achieve the goals of its energy strategy,” he said.
An expansion will also lower the cost of living and promote renewable energy, said Schumann, adding that the mineral industry accounts for around 50 per cent of the territory’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Last month, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) showed its eagerness to purse large hydro transmission to cushion itself and ratepayers from $25-million in anticipated annual loses by 2040.
At a Jan. 7 city council meeting in Yellowknife, power corporation president Jay Grewal suggested the corporation could lower costs by expanding its industrial customer base.
The power corporation is seeking partnerships with industry, including Fortune Minerals’ NICO mine, a cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project 50 km north of Whati.