Keep the momentum

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[mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]F[/mk_dropcaps]IRST NATIONS in British Columbia have embraced renewable electricity, working with industry and government for more than 15 years to develop wind and solar farms, run-of-river hydro installations and biomass operations. These projects reflect traditional values of respect for land and water, and they have been successful. Today, 125 of the province’s 203 First Nations are involved in clean-energy projects, from being majority owners to participating in resource-revenue sharing.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”800″ image_height=”600″ crop=”true” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” title=”Salmon spawn in a man-made channel near the Sechelt First Nation’s award-winning Sechelt Creek hydro project.” desc=”BABAR KHAN” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]The prospect of further success, however, is now less certain. The issue: a provincial policy that has steered future generating capacity away from programs that support development by First Nations and their partners.

The problem emerged in 
2013 when the provincial
 government adopted BC 
Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan. The plan determines how much pow
er will be produced in the
province over the next 20 
years. The main source is to be Site C, a 1,100-megawatt hydro dam near Fort St. John. In late 2014, the province gave final approval to build Site C at a cost of almost $10 billion.

The impact of this decision has been serious for all independent electricity producers, including those developed in partnership with First Nations, as it limits the ability of the electricity market to absorb their production.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”22″ align=”left”]From being majority owners to participating in resource-revenue sharing, 125 of B.C.’s 203 First Nations are involved in clean-energy projects.[/mk_blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]The province recognizes this challenge and has determined that it will acquire 150 gigawatts per hour per year through its Standing Offer Program, which sets targets for how much energy the province will buy from independent producers. But the program comes with limits: individual projects cannot exceed 15 megawatts. This is a blow to the growing involvement of First Nations in clean energy. Several have been working on larger wind and biomass projects that now cannot be built until there is a change in policy.

This is disappointing, as clean energy has made an important contribution to the development of First Nations communities. They have helped build capacity in project development and construction, as well as operations and maintenance. And they have given communities valuable experience in the governance of such projects.

First Nations have also excelled as electricity producers, often with financial support from federal and provincial programs. The Sechelt First Nation, for example, won the 2005 UNESCO IHA Blue Planet Prize and the 2013 Clean Energy BC award for environmental stewardship for its Sechelt Creek hydro project. Tla-o-qui-aht’s Canoe Creek and Hupacasath’s China Creek projects have also won several awards. Kanaka Bar First Nation’s project with Innergex produces 50 megawatts of power and is the first project to have a powerhouse on a reserve. There are many more examples of best practices.

First Nations in British Columbia recognize the opportunity to produce clean energy has been drastically reduced. In fact, in the next two years of the Standing Offer Program, the available capacity has already been allocated. The third year is filling up, which means First Nations have no immediate opportunity to develop new projects.

The province promises First Nations and the clean energy industry that their projects are the next priority. However, B.C.’s energy minister Bill Bennett cannot say if that will be in 10 or 20 years, just that it will happen at some point in the future. This is small comfort. You cannot sustain an industry on promises.

Policies in the province of B.C. must change radically now to open up real opportunities for First Nations to continue to create clean energy. The momentum that has been built must continue. Working with First Nations in their preferred industry makes good business sense and will benefit all British Columbians.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_padding_divider size=”40″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]by Kekinusuqs, Judith Sayers, strategic adviser to First Nations and former chief of B.C.’s Hupacasath First Nation

[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider size=”40″][mk_button dimension=”three” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” outline_active_color=”#fff” outline_hover_color=”#333333″ bg_color=”#13bdd2″ text_color=”light” url=”/resources/energy-exchange-magazine/issue-4/” target=”_self” align=”left” fullwidth=”true” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″ animation=”scale-up”]Read more stories from the Summer 2015 issue of Energy Exchange magazine[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]