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Indigenous clean energy projects are ramping up across Canada, with medium-to-large undertakings experiencing a 30-per-cent growth rate since 2017, according to a new report.

The survey, completed for the non-profit organization Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) and based on its database of projects, says Indigenous communities and enterprises represent the biggest single owner of clean energy assets apart from Crown and private utilities. A larger number of projects are coming online, it adds.

It is fair to describe Indigenous people as “the country’s strongest clean energy community,” Darrell Brown, chair of ICE’s board of directors, and Chris Henderson, executive director, write at the outset of the report.

Mr. Brown, a Cree business owner based in Winnipeg, told The Globe and Mail that increasing Indigenous-owned clean energy projects will require more partnerships with governments and utilities.

“Indigenous people are true partners looking for an opportunity to clean up Canada’s emissions through their own projects,” said Mr. Brown, who is also the president of Kisik Clean Energy, which works with industry and Indigenous communities in areas including hydro, solar and wind.

British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec are the top three jurisdictions of medium-to-large Indigenous renewable power projects, according to the ICE report.

A total of 197 medium-to-large renewable energy generating projects with Indigenous involvement are now in operation (171) or in the final stages of planning or construction (26), it says. Most of these projects involve partnerships between Indigenous communities and energy sector companies, utilities or developers.

The report notes that smaller clean energy projects are expanding, with many Indigenous communities installing solar systems that supply provincial and territorial grids. As well, renewable energy projects to replace diesel-reliant generation of heat and power are becoming prevalent across Canada.

Indigenous communities are an essential force to the transition to a low-carbon future, says Terri Lynn Morrison, director of strategic partnerships and communications for ICE. She is also an Indigenous project developer whose experience involves advising on a wind farm owned by three Mi’kmaq communities in Gaspé, Que.

“When we think about what the future is, energy efficiency and conservation is going to be one of the … biggest undertakings for Indigenous communities.”

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