Ecotrust Canada and two aboriginal capital corporations have partnered to help First Nations take ownership of power projects on their traditional territories.
Today they launched the $7 million First Nation Regeneration Fund, to give First Nations and band councils money to purchase equity shares in run-of-river projects.
Ecotrust Canada, the Tribal Resource Investment Corporation and the Tale'awtxw Aboriginal Capital Corporation provided $4 million altogether and the federal Ministry of Indian Affairs and Northern Development provided $3 million.
The two aboriginal corporations deal with First Nations in Vancouver and northwestern B.C.
Peter Lantin, chief operating officer with the Tribal Resources Investment Corporation, said many bands they talked to have been approached by independent power producers (IPPs).
"Most [developers] have come with a royalty agreement in hand," said Lantin. "When we asked, why bands don't take some ownership of these projects, the answer was, 'we don't have any money.'"
"We're looking at the energy source, the river, as being an asset of the First Nation. They can put it to work."
Lantin said the fund could realistically provide funding for four to five small-scale projects. The first project it will finance is a 2 MW run-of-river project wholly owned by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. The focus right now is on run-of-river projects in communities that are currently using diesel power, Lantin said.
"We're not just going to be handing out money to any project...it's going to have to pass environmental criteria."
Ecotrust Canada president Ian Gill said they are in the middle of developing the environmental criteria with which projects will be evaluated.
"The project we have already supported is a very good illustration of what can be achieved," he said. "It not only means the energy independence of a community, but the environmental benefit is you allow them to not have to purchase a half million litres of diesel a year."
Colleen Kimmett reports for The Hook.