Indigenous leaders are calling for a bigger stake in Alberta’s renewable energy projects, just as the province calls for expressions of interest for the next 700 megawatts of solar and wind procurement.
The leaders from Treaty 6, 7, and 8, the Métis Settlements General Council, and the Métis Nation of Alberta “are presenting a united front to the provincial government,” CBC reports. “They want to be active and equal participants in efforts to avoid the environmental degradation that’s happened on traditional lands as a result of past energy projects.”
The leaders gathered at an Edmonton hotel said it was the first time in 35 years that such a large group of Métis and First Nations representatives had joined together on a single issue.
“It’s the protection of the environment for the future generations,” said Crystal Lameman, environment and climate policy analyst for the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. “The discussions that are happening here are policy-related, but those policies, regardless of if they are energy-related or not, if they’re economics-related or not, the protection and preservation of the environment needs to be at the forefront.”
Over the next three years, the Alberta government plans to allocate C$151 million in projected carbon levies, about 2.8% of the projected total, to Indigenous communities. The leaders said that won’t be sufficient when First Peoples represent about 6.5% of the province’s population.
“How do you make anything with that? There’s not enough money to do anything,” said Darren Calliou, vice-president of the Métis Settlements General Council. “So now your projects are two megawatts, one megawatt, 10 megawatts,” when some communities could produce up to 200 MW of renewable electricity.
“The government is also requiring Indigenous equity investment from proponents in its second round of bids to build renewable energy projects,” CBC notes, and is aiming for 300 MW of renewable generation in a program aimed at supporting Indigenous economies and training. “Each bid will have a minimum Indigenous equity component, which can include an ownership stake in the project or a land use agreement between the company and the community.”
While the leaders were dissatisfied with the percentage of carbon levy revenues the government is promising, they were encouraged that Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan attended the Edmonton meeting. “As Indigenous peoples, this is brand new for us, to have a government that wants to work with us,” Lameman said. “I’m optimistic because we have to be. We have no other choice.”