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

The projects are receiving funding through the BC Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative
The Echo Bay Lodge & Marina on Gilford Island will be getting $500,000 in funding. The property was sold back in 2021 to the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation. (Pierre’s Facebook)

Thirty-five First Nations throughout B.C. 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.

In the North Island, the Kwiḵwa̱sut’inux̱w Haxwa’mis First Nation will be receiving $500,000 toward the installation of a solar-PV system and a 550-kWh battery energy storage system on the Echo Bay Marina and Lodge to replace two diesel generators, the Kwakiutl First Nation will be receiving $300,000 toward a heat pump retrofit project that will replace traditional heating systems with air-source heat pumps for approximately 40 homes, the ‘Namgis First Nation will be receiving $300,000 toward the installation of heat pumps in 52 homes bringing the multi-phase project total to 115 homes, and the Quatsino First Nation will be receiving $300,000 toward a 100kW solar-PV system and 13kWh battery storage system for the First Nation’s community hall.

“The launch of a new funding stream for small-scale renewable energy projects is a testament to our commitment to inclusive and sustainable development,” said Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island. “With over $1.6 million of funding supporting projects on the North Island, this initiative will enable more First Nations to contribute to the power grid, ensuring that even the smallest projects can have a big impact on the community and the environment.”

“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. 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, and 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.

“The transition to clean-energy sources is critical to Canada’s economic future and Indigenous Peoples have a significant role to play in that future,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, federal Minister of Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan).

Sajjan added that PacifiCan proudly established the BCICEI in partnership with “Indigenous leaders, industry and the Province, and it has already supported 139 Indigenous clean-energy projects and created quality jobs and training opportunities in First Nations communities across B.C.”

Patty Hajdu, federal Minister of Indigenous Services of Canada, stated that the BC Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative is a “First Nation-led solution that will create good-paying jobs for communities. 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.

Tyson Whitney

About the Author: Tyson Whitney

I have been working in the community newspaper business for nearly a decade, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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