By Turtle Island News writers
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER-Despite strong opposition from uninformed councillors the Six Nations will support a feasibility study for clean hydrogen production in Nanticoke.
Matt Jamieson, president and CEO of Six Nations of the Grand River Economic Development Corporation (SNGREDC) and David Zekveld, director of hydrogen business development at Atura Power presented a possible 50 per cent partnership in a venture to produce green hydrogen in Nanticoke at the General Council Committee meeting Tuesday May 10, but first the potential partners needed federal approval for a grant for a feasibility study.
Council approved Atura to apply for a federal grant for $900,000 to fund 75 per cent of the feasibility study through its NRCan Indigenous Stream, which requires 50 per cent Indigenous community participation. Atura would fund the remaining 25 per cent, leaving Six Nations without any cost, so the choice to participate, or not will not cost the community any money.
The goal is to build a facility in the Nanticoke power generation sector, near the 44-megawatt Nanticoke Solar farm, of which Six Nations is a part owner. They hope to use that solar energy to power a 44-megawatt hydrogen facility.
Zekveld said using clean energy to create hydrogen, creates low carbon hydrogen. They would use municipal water and split it with the solar electricity into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen would be released back into the atmosphere, while the hydrogen could see use in many different industries. Zekveld said once the hydrogen energy is taken from the water, the water, the company would recombine the elements and release clean water from whence it came.
“Hydrogen is largely viewed as the energy carrier of the future. With the Ukraine and Russia conflict the EU is moving toward green hydrogen as substitute for Russian oil and gas,” Zekveld said.
Hydrogen power is currently one of Canada’s priorities to achieve their carbon net zero 2050 goal, and it’s also part of Ontario Power Generation’s goal (Atura’s parent company), to reach a net carbon zero by 2040.
Hydrogen has the potential to fuel long haul industrial vehicles, supplement natural gas for heating; it has applications in heavy industrial sectors, like steel and concrete production.
Jamieson said the facility has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 34,000 tons a year. Zekveld added, that’s equivalent to about 8,000 cars.
Atura is also building a 20-megawatt hydrogen electrolyzer plant in Niagara.
Councillor Wendy Johnson strongly opposed approval of the feasibility study saying she doesn’t know enough about hydrogen energy and wasn’t given time to research the topic.
“We’ve only had the agenda a day or two, that doesn’t give us a lot of time to review. From what you’ve presented [SNGREDC] has had extensive dialogue. It would be wonderful if we had that same opportunity, or to bring us some information in the preliminary stages, so we had some understanding, so we could be prepared when presentations come to the table, rather than have 24 hours to absorb and make a decision on how to go forward,” she said.
Jamieson told SNEC the feasibility study would help answer all of council’s questions and let them know if it was a viable venture and much more.
“If [the feasibility study grant] is not approved, then we dissolve the agreement, if we’re funded and arrive with an outcome based on the feasibility study to tell us if the project is viable, we may decide to proceed in phase two. The first order of business is to put in an application to so we know what the opportunity is and what the impacts might be,” he said.
Johnson was also opposed to entering a partnership with the company without having a concrete understanding of how much of the venture Six Nations would own, she also took issue with Atura engaging with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, but not explaining how much each First Nation would own.
“The portion is up to 50 per cent. We don’t have commitment from the Mississaugas on if they’re going to participate. We can approve the motion to go forward without having any confirmation, we approve it and they come back and say they want 40 percent, does that leave us with 10 per cent?”
Councillor Sherri-Lynn Hill Pierce opposed the study because she wanted to know if the venture was financially sound.
Councillors Audrey Powless-Bomberry and Melba Thomas said going ahead with the study application is a necessary first step to getting their questions answered, with little to no commitment from Six Nations.
“I believe we should certainly have confidence, if possible, in our people who are presenting, such as Matt [Jamieson]. We need to move forward with education, awareness, and be educated on the benefits, have a legal review. It’s all in here that we’re asking for understanding of the results which will happen, if we have a feasibility study,” Thomas said.