FNPA Renewable Power Development and Industry Engagement 101 Session
By Eric Mohun
Hosted by the First Nation Power Authority (FNPA)and First Nation leadership, members of both the government and energy industry gathered in Calgary on February 7, 2018 at the Grey Eagle Resort to share information and discuss how best to develop renewable energy projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Chief and councils, government officials and renewable resource companies, engaged in a multilateral conversation about opportunities for First Nations to partner with industry on developing a new economy.
The welcoming comments from Chief Crowchild and Chief Standingontheroad as well as the CEO of FNPA, Paul O’Byrne, highlighted the importance for establishing positive, mutually-beneficial relationships early in the engagement process with First Nations. Stewardship, and a connection to the land, is a deeply held value within Indigenous culture. The need to play a key role in protecting the land and the continuation of ancestral lineage through education of indigenous youth were also stressed as being critical components of the overall program.
An underlying theme from the session was that industry should acknowledge the benefits of Indigenous values, such as stewardship of the land, and work to find a balance between development and environmental protection. Indigenous groups are more than simply landowners, but stewards interested in sustainability. There was also recognition that renewable resources are plentiful within Alberta and Saskatchewan, but it should be acknowledged that these resources fall within the traditional lands of Indigenous communities and therefore relationships, consultations and economic-partnerships are required. The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) presented its program, which highlighted its intention to work at including First Nations in the development of renewable resources in Alberta.
Government representatives and First Nation leaders also gave presentations on the Alberta Indigenous Climate Planning Program and Green Energy Development Program. First Nations leaders stressed the need to take advantage of available funding to develop solar programs within their communities and reduce the energy costs for operating buildings and houses. The capacity within First Nations is growing because of these construction projects.
During the ‘wellness’ breaks and table discussions, there was a sincere, common understanding that to be successful moving forward, the engagement process and development will require “Indigenization” of the method. This includes the addition of values and knowledge of Indigenous groups across the provinces when it comes to energy infrastructure projects. All sides called for respecting each group’s differences and common goals in order to successfully partner on resource development.