A run-of-river mini dam. (Courtesy energybc.ca)
- First Nations communities fear they will be undercut if BC Hydro no longer purchases their power
- Amendments to the Clean Energy Act remove energy self-sufficiency from its priorities
CHILLIWACK (NEWS1130) – The First Nations Leadership Council is the latest to register its opposition to pending changes to the province’s Clean Energy Act.
Bill 17 proposes to remove energy self-sufficiency from the act’s key mandates, essentially making it easier for BC Hydro to buy power from the U.S.
Currently, BC Hydro purchases power from about 120 Independent Power Producers, or IPPs. About 80 of the province’s IPPs are fully or partially owned by First Nations. Power is produced by mini-dams –referred to as run-of-river– as well as biomass, and wind projects.
Once the bill is passed, BC Hydro will no longer depend on these small-scale producers for power.
The First Nations Leadership Council represents the political executive of the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. In a statement, the council says “the government has ignored its own statute in the process of drafting Bill 17 and its tabling in the legislature.”
“It undercuts B.C. First Nations that have developed power projects,” says Robert Phillip who is with the First Nations Summit. “It could be very detrimental to First Nations who have worked so hard to put them in place, whether they are run-of-the-river projects, or other energy sources that we would think would be part of the future.”
He notes he was impressed when he recently visited a run-of-river project in Atlin.
“Very self-sufficient, very clean, and provides an abundance of energy. This should be a partnership with BC. That’s just one but there are many.”
He says it is highly troubling and frustrating to see the changes move forward without proper consultation with First Nations, especially after the province signed onto the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
It’s what others on the leadership council are saying as well.
“This Bill is fundamentally flawed in content and in process and must be withdrawn. We are particularly concerned that Bill 17, which stands to absolutely devastate some First Nations’ economic development plans and opportunities, was introduced at the same time the Province is discussing economic recovery from COVID,” says Judy Wilson, with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
Last month, Clean Energy BC came out to say by abandoning contracts with small producers, the province and BC Hydro are removing a source of local development. It also fears relying on American energy sources makes BC vulnerable to rising energy prices.