by Terry Villeneuve

Investing in infrastructure that promotes clean energy solutions is key to creating a strong low-carbon economy and sustainable future for Canadians.

Yesterday (May 22), Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, and Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison announced funding for a major green energy project near Meadow Lake.

The First Nations-owned Meadow Lake Tribal Council Bioenergy Centre, which will be set up at NorSask Forest Products, will generate carbon-neutral green power using sawmill biomass residuals. It will be the first plant of its kind in Saskatchewan and is expected to produce 6.6 megawatts of baseload electricity to power approximately 5,000 homes with greener energy.

“Transitioning to cleaner power is essential to protecting the environment, creating more sustainable communities and building a clean future for our kids and grandkids,” Bennett said. “This important Indigenous–owned project will create good middle-class jobs, boost regional economic growth and serve as a model for communities across Saskatchewan looking to transition to renewable energy and promote a greener way of life for all Canadians.”

The project is expected to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by more than one million tonnes over 25 years, and reduce smoke and other harmful matter to significantly improve air quality for residents.

Revenues from the plant will also support essential programs and services including child and family services, education, and health and youth development for the nine-member First Nations comprising the Meadow Lake Tribal Council.

The Government of Canada is contributing $52.5 million of the $75 million cost of the total project through the Green Infrastructure Stream of the Canada-Saskatchewan Integrated Bilateral Agreement under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

Harrison noted the Meadow Lake Bioenergy Project is a first of its kind biomass green energy project for the province.

“Today’s announcement is an exciting step in making this new bioenergy power plant a reality,” he said. “Congratulations to Meadow Lake Tribal Council and MLTC Resource Development on being one step closer to green energy production that will support improved economic outcomes for their member nations, the community of Meadow Lake and our region.”

MLTC chief Richard Ben said this is welcome news as an investment such as this makes good sense.

“It enables MLTC and the Meadow Lake First Nations to create ongoing economic opportunities and hope for our people,” he said. “Through this kind of affirmative action, Canada and Saskatchewan demonstrate their commitment to ensuring ongoing and sustained participation of Indigenous communities in green energy infrastructure development, climate change mitigation, improving environmental outcomes and supporting our local forestry-based economy in the Meadow Lake area.”

The current beehive burner will be replaced by the new and modern Meadow Lake Bioenergy Centre.

“Receiving clean air is very important to our people and we thank the federal and provincial governements for moving this project forward,” Ben added. “We’ve been working on this for 10 years, and we’re very pleased it’s now going ahead.”