Oneida energy storage project shows ‘true commitment to partnerships with Indigenous business’

Oneida energy storage project shows ‘true commitment to partnerships with Indigenous business’

Excerpt from Toronto Star article:

The 250-megawatt Oneida Energy Storage Project is poised to be a ground-breaking facility — on several fronts. Not only is the major resource project expected to be one of the largest energy storage facilities in the world, but it’s also noteworthy for its collaborative and inclusive approach: it’s a joint 50:50 venture that’s being developed in collaboration with Indigenous partners.

Ontario’s Minister of Energy has given the green light for the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to proceed with drafting a 10-year contract for the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and Toronto-based energy storage company NRStor Incorporated. While Indigenous communities are often included in projects only as the recipients of impact benefit agreements, the OES Project would see the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation, a group that manages Six Nations’ economic interests in renewable energy projects, as an equal partner.

The project will see the installation of lithium-ion battery modules on a 10-acre plot of land along the Hydro One Transmission Corridor in Haldimand County in order to reduce reliance on older carbon-intensive generators and the need to build new gas plants. It underwent a lengthy consultation process, seeking feedback from the community on everything from educational and employment opportunities and environmental conservation to financial considerations and health and safety planning. In May 2021, the Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council accepted the final report for the Six Nations Community Investment Review of the OES project as presented.

The recommendations echo that of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report released in 2015, which urged the corporate sector to ensure that Indigenous peoples have equitable access to jobs, training and education opportunities, and that Indigenous communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

“The Oneida Energy Storage facility will offer incredible educational, training and employment opportunities,” says Matt Jamieson, who is a member of the Tuscarora Nation and resident of Six Nations of the Grand River as well as the president and CEO of Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation that is co-developing the OES project. “Long term, the impact on our carbon footprint and sustainable practices for generations to come will show true commitment to partnerships with Indigenous business.”

The need for internship programs, skills training and employment of the local workforce is especially important since experts predict that about two-thirds of jobs currently held by Indigenous workers in Canada are in danger of either being eliminated or drastically changed by technology.

From the initial idea to the memorandum of understanding, the Six Nations were consulted at every step to ensure the project truly served the needs of the community.

“Working hand in hand as equal partners has made the Oneida Project more successful than it could be with either of our groups alone,” says Annette Verschuren, chair and CEO of NRStor.

Jamieson agrees that the partnership has been a productive one. “The relationship between Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and NRStor has been incredibly meaningful, and I look forward to seeing it further develop,” he says. “As we recognize the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this year, it is empowering to look at this partnership and know that we are experiencing a small piece of reconciliation firsthand.”

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