BC First Nations prepared to invest in renewables to replace Site C dam – survey

BC First Nations

Cape Scott wind farm: Photo: Environmental Dynamics.

BC First Nations responding to survey had $3.25 billion in renewable energy projects on drawing board

If the BC NDP and Green Party form a minority government and refer the Site C dam to the BC Utilities Commission – which would presumably pause the $8 billion project in the Peace River Valley – as promised, BC First Nations may be the beneficiary of a new approach to power generation, according to a survey from Clean Energy BC.

BC First Nations

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The organization of independent power producers teamed up with BC First Nations Clean Energy Working Group and the University of Victoria Environmental Studies to undertake the survey, which garnered 105 responses from the 203 First Nations in the province.

The survey found 47 per cent of the 105 First Nations surveyed are involved in the clean energy industry in some way, from ownership to receiving royalties.

Amongst the First Nations that responded, they are involved in 78 operating projects, 49 projects under development and an additional 249 projects that they want to build.

“We strongly endorse the survey First Nations and Renewable Energy Development in British Columbia that indicates 98% of responding Nations are eager for more development in this area,” said James Redford, Director of Lands and Resources for Quatsino First Nation.

Quatsino First Nation cooperated to develop the 100 MW Cape Scott Wind Farm, according to the release. The First Nation is also developing a the five MWWady Creek “run of the river” project and has several other wind and run off river energy project under consideration within its territory.

Judith Sayers, one of the survey co-authors, says BC First Nations have invested over $35 million in operating projects and projects in the planning stage have a total value of about $3.4 billion.

“This is a significant investment potential for BC that the BC Government is ignoring,” she said in a press release.

Just over 6o per cent of respondents said the biggest barrier to First Nations investment in renewable energy projects that BC Hydro stopped acquiring power from independent power producers because of the projected power surplus from the Site C dam beginning in 2024.

Paul Kariya, executive director of Clean Energy BC, says that in 2014 BC Hydro asked his organization to prepare a proposal outlining how private power producers, including First Nations, could generate the Site C dam’s 1,100 megawatts of electricity.

“We put together a portfolio of renewable projects including small hydro and the possibility of some small natural gas peakers,” Kariya said in an interview. “We told the BC government we think we can do it cheaper because [the capacity can be built] incrementally. You can build according to whatever the needs are and the private sector would take the risk.”

Kariya says BC Hydro was interested in Clean Energy BC’s proposal, but the Christy Clark Liberals decided to build Site C instead.

BC First Nations

Chief Patrick Michell of Kanaka Bar Indian Band.

“The BC Government was very aware of how much interest and involvement there is by First Nations to produce electricity for the grid and they still made the decision to proceed with Site C knowing they would be stopping development of many smaller projects and denying economic development opportunities for First Nations,” said Chief Patrick Michell of Kanaka Bar Indian Band, which through its company KCRI owns 50 per cent in Kwoiek Creek Resources Limited Partnership with Innergex.

Kwoiek Creek is a 50MW run of the river project with the powerhouse located on the Kanaka Bar reserve.  The First Nation is also involved in three small-scale solar systems.

“Sending Site C to the Review Commission gives hope to First Nations that there is a possibility the project could be shut down,” Sayers said in response to emailed questions. “The question is what will the Review Commission say and how will it be used by the NDP/Greens.  I know they will do the right thing.”

Sayers also touted implementing all of the Climate Leadership Action Plan recommendations, which she believes would lead to more electrification of the BC economy.

“I think a green economy with more technologies brings a lot of jobs and I hope that will also be a strong thing of the new government,” she said.

“They talk of an Emerging Economy Task Force ad an Innovation Commission that leads me to hope that there will be greater movement to creating less greenhouse gas emissions and more renewable technology.”

BC First nations

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