Canada, B.C. support First Nations to power up new clean energy projects

Thirty-five First Nations in British Columbia are receiving $9.8 million in federal and provincial funding to develop clean energy projects

The funding help them meet their energy needs efficiently and sustainably, while creating more jobs for people in their communities. Okanagan Wind photo.

VANCOUVER – Thirty-five First Nations in British Columbia are receiving $9.8 million in federal and provincial funding to develop clean energy projects that will help them meet their energy needs efficiently and sustainably, while creating more jobs for people in their communities.

“First Nations are key partners as we work together to build cleaner, more resilient communities and power B.C.’s growing economy with renewable electricity,” said Josie Osborne, B.C.’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “From roof-top solar to residential heat pumps and large-scale wind generation, the projects receiving funding today will advance Indigenous clean energy and create new opportunities across the province.”

The projects are receiving funding through the BC Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative (BCICEI), a partnership between the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and New Relationship Trust (NRT). This round of BCICEI support includes $7.5 million from PacifiCan and Indigenous Services Canada and $2.3 million from the Government of B.C through its CleanBC plan.

According to a press release, the funding will help First Nations develop and implement clean-energy generation, energy efficiency and energy storage projects, creating employment and economic opportunities in their communities.

“New Relationship Trust is dedicated to bolstering First Nations’ leadership in clean energy throughout B.C. These endeavours reduce greenhouse gas emissions, propel economic growth and foster well-being in urban and rural Indigenous communities provincewide,” said Walter Schneider, chief executive officer, NRT. “The BC Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative stands out as a distinctive funding program that is guided by Indigenous leadership and fosters collaboration across various sectors, from government to industry to First Nations organizations.”

The clean-energy projects differ in size and scope.  At the Sik-E-Dakh Band, located in northwestern B.C., the Band will install air-source heat pumps for 70 homes.

The Kwiakah First Nation is northwest of Powell River on the western coast of the B.C. Mainland and will install a solar PV system on a former fish farm. Frank Voelker, band manager and economic development officer, Kwiakah First Nation said “we are transforming a former fish farm into a centre of excellence for the research of regenerative forestry practices. The centre is powered by eco-friendly solar energy ensuring our operations harmonize with the majestic wilderness surrounding us.”

Metlakatla First Nation is located about five kilometres northwest of Prince Rupert on the northern B.C. Coast.  The First Nation will do a feasibility study for a 40-megawatt wind project.  “The BC Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative funding will enable the required due diligence for Metlakatla to advance the project with a goal of submitting a bid to the 2024 clean power call or an alternative off-take option within the region,” said Ryan Leighton, chief operating officer at the Metlakatla Development Corporation.

To further support First Nations clean-energy projects, the Province, NRT and PacifiCan are about to start work on design of a new funding stream for BCICEI with input from First Nations. It will allow small-scale renewable-energy projects that are ineligible to submit to BC Hydro’s calls for power due to their size, to move forward and contribute to the power grid. The new stream will be funded with $140 million that was first announced in June 2023. This design process will kick off with an engagement period to gather ideas from interested First Nations.

The BCICEI is partially funded by Pacific Economic Development Canada through the Strategic Partnership Initiative (SPI), a unique federal program administered by Indigenous Services Canada and shared by a growing network of more than 20 federal partners. Its innovative whole-of-government approach helps advance Indigenous inclusion in large, complex economic development opportunities that span a range of industry sectors across Canada. SPI provides a way to fill funding gaps that create barriers to Indigenous involvement in economic opportunities. It also promotes partnerships between federal and non-federal groups to leverage additional funding and support for economic development opportunities.

Patty Hajdu, federal Minister of Indigenous Services of Canada said “The BC Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative is a First Nation-led solution that will create good-paying jobs for communities.”  She added “The renewable energy sector is growing across the world and this initiative will ensure Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia can benefit from this growth. Not only will it contribute to lowering our greenhouse gas emissions, but it will only help build an economy that is fair to everyone.”

Since it started in 2016, BCICEI has funded more than 135 projects with approximately $30 million.  In addition to the new stream for small-scale projects to contribute to the power grid, BCICEI is expanding its funding to include community clean-energy planning projects.


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