Ten First Nations in British Columbia are to receive funding for energy projects that include small solar networks, a biomass project to provide hot water heating for a hospital on Haida Gwaii and a hydropower system for a village that currently relies on diesel generators.
The projects, announced on Friday, will receive nearly $3-million through the B.C. Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative, a funding partnership between the B.C. and federal governments and the New Relationship Trust, a non-profit focused on building capacity in First Nations in B.C.
Since its launch in 2016, the clean-energy initiative has funded 67 projects to the tune of nearly $12-million, the province said on Friday in an update, with many of those in remote communities that depend primarily or completely on diesel generation.
For both the B.C. and federal governments, the alternative energy projects are a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy stability in First Nations communities.
The current appetite for the program far exceeds available funds, Cole Sayers, director of the clean-energy initiative, said.
“There is huge demand, really,” Mr. Sayers said.
“It’s usually around $10-million in requested funds for each intake and we are only able to fund around $3-million.”
The projects listed in Friday’s announcement included $500,000 for a two-megawatt solar farm for Skidegate Band Council, $500,000 toward a 15-megawatt utility-scale solar project being pursued by the Upper Nicola Band and the Okanagan Nation Alliance and $500,000 for a biomass system to supply hot water heating and domestic hot water to the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre.
Another group, the Uchucklesaht Tribe Government, received $299,975 toward a hydropower facility.
With all of the projects, the clean-energy initiative is looking toward provincial and national climate targets as well as the energy needs of remote communities, Mr. Sayers said.
In October, the province announced its latest plan to meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying it plans to meet a legislated target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent of 2007 levels by 2030.
“With the electrification targets under CleanBC, we are going to need power – so I’m hopeful that we can continue to work with the province to find opportunities for First Nations to build clean energy projects. And to support remote communities in getting off diesel,” Mr. Sayers said.
Currently, 24 remote First Nation communities in B.C. use primarily diesel power. Shifting that to renewable energy could take a decade or more and cost millions of dollars, he said.
Building new energy projects can provide jobs, training and environmental benefits, Mr. Sayers said.
“First Nations can help meet GHG targets, and [projects] provide revenue and jobs to communities – and it fosters partnerships between First Nations, municipalities and industry.
“So if we’re looking for ways to meet GHG targets and provide economic development for these rural regions, clean energy development is a really good area,” he added.
An August report by the Pembina Institute said First Nations renewable energy projects could play a significant role in meeting B.C.’s greenhouse gas targets, but that current government policies do not favour development.
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