By Paul Kariya, Executive Director Clean Energy BC (CEBC)
As Executive Director of CEBC, which represents clean energy operators and developers, suppliers, contractors, service providers, and post-secondary institutions’ Yorkville University and BCIT, I know the dramatic impact that renewables can have on First Nations economic development.
There are currently 106 independent power projects in operation throughout BC. The private sector has invested over $9 billion in clean energy projects that benefit all British Columbians. We in BC are very good at doing these clean and renewable projects. We have a supply chain that is experienced and possess the know-how to do this – the contractors, legal teams, financiers, environmental consultants, etc. Projects are a significant source of revenue for local communities, and taxpayers benefit too (public debt is not used).
But this success story would not be possible without the support of First Nations. Our members work closely with First Nations, who receive training, jobs, and contracts. First Nations partners also benefit from royalties from the developer and revenue sharing from the provincial government.
First Nations have embraced economic development from clean and renewable energy projects that will provide revenue for their government and necessary public services – schools, education, recreation, cultural services and roads etc. Previously, the wealth came from fishing, hunting and trade based on natural resources. The economic underpinnings of government still come from the land and natural resources. Many First Nations embrace clean and renewable energy projects because they meet their principles – protect the environment, build legacy infrastructure, and enable sustainable economic development.
Last year, I attended ceremonial openings of the Box Canyon, Culliton Creek, and Tretheway Creek hydro projects. These projects were all awarded contracts from BC Hydro under the 2008 Clean Power Call. But soon, the last of these projects will be completed. And the Standing Offer Program, which provides an opportunity for projects under 15MWs, is also at risk of being rolled-back. So when and where will the next opportunity come? Will economic reconciliation with First Nations continue to include hydro, wind, solar, biomass and other renewable projects?
BC can unlock more of these opportunities through aggressive climate policies that encourage greater use of electricity to power how we live. That involves everything from promoting electric vehicles, to getting remote communities off of diesel. CEBC is one of the few industry associations with First Nations members, and we encourage your readers to consider joining CEBC as we advocate clean energy for more opportunities going forward. Given the need to encourage young people to look for careers in clean energy, we are also launching a Clean Energy Scholarship, which will provide $1000 to a graduating student this year. For more information, please visit www.cleanenergybc.org.