Alberta announces funding for Indigenous initiatives in green energy programs

Funding Opportunities | Renewable Energy | Resources and Environment

The Governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan recently committed to increase the number of megawatts (“MW”) generated by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, to be added to their respective grid. The ambitious targets set by both governments aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their consequences but also to create business opportunities for those who are interested.

OKT has advised a number of communities across Canada participating as owners in renewable energy projects, both large and small, and witnessed the benefits arising from this kind of participation in the industry. Accordingly we welcome these announcements, and are excited about the opportunity to build capacity in renewable technologies and create sustainable economic growth for both Alberta and Saskatchewan’s Indigenous communities.

Alberta’s Initiatives

On October 5, 2016, Alberta announced two funding opportunities, totalling $2.5 million, dedicated to the development of renewable energy projects by Indigenous communities in the Province. In this post, we will describe how communities can go about accessing these programs.

Both small-scale pilot programs are related to Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan. One of the main objectives of this plan is to develop strategic initiatives to fight climate change by phasing out coal-generated facilities and developing additional renewable energy projects.

Eligible Indigenous communities to the programs are First Nation communities, Metis Settlements, and the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation, located in Alberta.

The programs are the beginning of a bigger move into renewable energy by Alberta, which announced last year that plans to have 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity supplied by renewable energy by 2030.

Beyond building expertise on smaller projects, knowledge gained from these programs will be valuable as larger projects are announced in the region. Indeed, given Alberta’s ambitious target– it is imperative that the regulatory framework governing the roll-out of this commitment contains strong incentives promoting Indigenous ownership, and proper financing tools to make this a reality.

Alberta Indigenous Solar Program (“AISP”)

AISP’s initiative supports the development of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects by Indigenous communities. As mentioned on AISP’s web page, grants will be awarded to projects that aim to:

  • increase Indigenous participation in initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • transition to a low carbon economy;
  • create renewable energy projects; and
  • provide communities with valid information on, and experience with, the development of solar energy projects.

In addition to the eligible Indigenous communities mentioned previously, Indigenous-led organizations, friendship centres and community-owned businesses are also eligible to participate in the AISP. Projects to receive funding may range in size between 2 kilowatts up to a maximum of 1 megawatt (“MW”) in installation capacity. The maximum cost per watt allowed will be $3.75. Grid-connected and off-grid projects will both be eligible for funding.

AISP will provide up to $200,000 per project and will cover up to 60% of the entitled expenses. To cover the remaining 40% of the project costs, the communities will be allowed to secure additional funding from external sources. Submissions will be accepted until depletion of the available funding.

Alberta Indigenous Community Energy Program (“AICEP”)

Secondly is the community energy program. The AICEP intends to help Alberta’s Indigenous communities gain better understanding of the energy usage of their buildings. The program will offer tools and funding to communities to develop solutions to improve and optimize the efficiency of the energy usage in community-owned buildings. Program participants will need to fulfill the requirements and propose a project eligible for funding such as described on the AICEP’s web page. AICEP will provide up to $90,000 per project and will cover 100% of the eligible expenses. Submissions will be accepted until the funding is exhausted.

Saskatchewan’s Renewable Energy Procurements

Saskatchewan is also jumping on board with its own target of 50% of provincial generation capacity coming from renewables by 2030. As per SaskPower Renewables Roadmap, the objective of the province is to add 60 MW of solar energy by 2021 and up to 200 MW of wind energy to be announced in the first quarter of 2017.

Saskatchewan has already started its procurement process by announcing a Request for Qualification for 10 MW of solar energy. The deadline to submit the qualification submission is November 30, 2016. We encourage interested communities to review SaskPower’s web page for further details.

We will keep this blog updated with information on Alberta and Saskatchewan’s renewable energy procurement process which will offer unique economic development opportunities for First Nations in both provinces. If your community would like to learn further about opportunities in the renewable energy sector in your region, please feel welcome to contact either of us with your questions (Julie-Anne Pariseau: jpariseau@oktlaw.com; Oliver MacLaren: omaclaren@oktlaw.com). 

By Julie-Anne Pariseau and Oliver MacLaren