First Nations-led renewable energy organization is a historic move for BC

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      By Chief Wesley Sam

      Smalyax K’uul means “coming together as one”—and that is exactly what First Nation leaders in BC’s northwest are doing.

      We have come together to form K’uul Power: a First Nations-led organization that will pursue the development and operation of renewable energy transmission and generation projects in northwestern British Columbia.

      As the Chief of the Tsil kaz koh Nation, I am joined by a number of First Nations elected and hereditary leaders who have signed a collaboration and communications protocol agreement, including Nee Tahi Bunh; Wet’suwet’en First Nation; Hereditary Chief Samooh of Birch House; Witset; Kitsumkalum; Kitselas; Nisga’a; Haisla; Nadleh Whuten; and Nazko.

      Discussions are also taking place with representatives of other First Nations to support ongoing collaboration. We welcome their involvement and will continue to openly share information while they consider more formal participation.

      Together, we are exploring mutually beneficial partnerships and commercial relationships—and will become directly involved in projects where host Nations and the K’uul Board of Directors agree. We support each other in having historic wrongs addressed and past agreements honored while also working together to build new infrastructure in the right way. 

      Our commitment is to work in the spirit of collaboration—for mutual gain, as well as a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.

      The opportunity is significant. Transmission projects between Prince George and Terrace, and from Terrace to Kitimat, Prince Rupert, and New Aiyansh are conservatively estimated at $8 billion. These projects can only proceed with First Nations consent, and none have provided it yet. 

      Potential generation projects brought online by these transmission lines will be worth many more billions, and all of this infrastructure is destined to become the backbone for the decarbonized economy of the future. Electrifying new projects and existing projects is required to meet climate targets. Eliminating emissions from existing sources and enabling the Port of Prince Rupert and new projects to be electrified is critical for our collective benefit here at home, as well as around the world with the customers for our low-carbon resources.

      But it’s not just about mega projects. What we are proposing would have the effect of literally powering up First Nation communities that don’t currently have three-phase power, and allowing them to participate in the new, green economy. The energy transition needs to be just—meaning that we can’t continue to allow transmission lines to traverse our territories without having access to the energy that flows through them.

      A critical step in the evolution of K’uul Power is the support of senior levels of government and BC Hydro. At this stage, we are engaged with the Province and are working out details that include funding for capacity building. The Premier and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation have both expressed their support for the steps we are taking. 

      As a society, we often speak about reconciliation. In its purest form, this is it.

      By taking the lead, First Nations have the opportunity to chart a positive path forward and create a healthy economic and social future for our families. There is a great deal of work ahead, but this is a significant and defining step that will result in a better and more prosperous future and renewed hope for future generations.  

      It means a cleaner, greener future for our children and their grandchildren—and for all British Columbians.

      Wesley Sam is Chief of the Tsil kaz koh Nation and Chair of the K’uul Board of Directors.