First Nations should be allowed to offer clean energy to BC ratepayers: SFU group

A research group from Simon Fraser University calls for the BC Utilities Commission to allow First Nations to provide clean energy to ratepayers across the province.

Anitra Paris, operations & policy manager, Clean Energy BC, Prasanna Krishnan principal at Surya Energy Consulting, Chief Patrick Michell of the Kanaka Bar Indian Band, Andy Hira, SFU political science professor, Ariana Arguello, corporate sustainability expert, Nastaran Arianpoo, Willow Grove Research Associate at the SFU Pacific Water Research Centre.

A research group from Simon Fraser University says BC First Nations should be able to provide clean energy to ratepayers across the province.

The Clean Energy Research Group, or CERG, has made a submission to the BC Utilities Commission in response to a BCUC draft report regarding the regulation of Indigenous utilities.

The CERG working paper, Towards a Positive Sum Regulation of Indigenous Utilities in B.C. says a mixed commission of Indigenous and BCUC regulators could allow for competition within the grid, something its researchers say would benefit all taxpayers.

“Clean energy projects, such as wind, geothermal and solar power, represent an economic development opportunity for First Nations without the risks of environmental harm involved in oil and gas pipeline projects,” says SFU professor and CERG lead Andy Hira.

Hira says Indigenous clean energy projects also offer the intangible benefits of reconciliation, greater autonomy and self-sufficiency and a link with Indigenous spiritual values around environmental preservation. 

Currently, there is a ban on retail access in the province, which means that other utilities cannot us BC Hydro’s transmission and distribution infrastructure to sell power to BC Hydro customers.  BC Hydro has also suspended a program allowing emerging independent utilities to sell electricity to them.

Meanwhile, CERG argues that Site C generation will fall far short of expected electricity demand in BC within a decade and will only produce about one-fifth of the electricity required.

With electricity generation expected to fall short of demand, CERG suggests First Nations groups throughout BC could contribute to the grid and production of clean energy could act as a catalyst for economic and social development.

“If Indigenous utilities are able to sell beyond their own reserves it creates a solid revenue stream to improve life in their communities over the long-term and reduces emissions, which is key to building a healthy future for the next generations,” said Hira.

CERG is argues a neutral system which is open to competition could offer consumers choices for their electricity.  It could also take advantage of sales to other provinces and states, based on the location and energy resources available to the First Nations.

The final BCUC report on the regulation of Indigenous utilities is due to the provincial government on April 30, 2020.

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