Thursday, March 28, 2013

First Nations Power Authority of Saskatchewan and SaskPower launch innovative new program for renewable energy projects

On February 28, 2013 the First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) announced the signing of their new Master Agreement with the crown utility, SaskPower in Saskatchewan. The Master Agreement defines a process for establishing a number of independent power generation opportunities for First Nations in Saskatchewan with SaskPower.

FNPA is a not-for-profit entity with a mandate to facilitate the development of First Nations-led power generation projects with SaskPower created through a Memorandum of Understanding with SaskPower in 2011. Funding for the creation and development of FNPA was provided by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) in the amount of $1.39 million. The FNPA has recently launched its official call for members, inviting all First Nations and industry to participate.

Highlights of the Master Agreement include:

1. An initial 10 MW set aside from SaskPower for renewable energy projects;
2. additional future generation opportunities for FNPA members; and
3. a defined process for evaluating unsolicited First Nation power project proposals.

In addition to the Master Agreement, SaskPower and the FNPA are in discussion to explore additional projects and agreements that could result in further economic development opportunities for First Nations over the life of the agreement, such as the Meadow Lake Bioenergy Centre – a $150 million 36 MW biomass facility in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan which has secured a 25 year PPA from SaskPower.

FNPA and SaskPower have also signed a three-year Funding Agreement under which SaskPower will provide $100,000 per year to FNPA with the option to renew for another two years by mutual agreement.

The presentation will outline the development of this innovative organization and detail the opportunities for developers and suppliers under the terms of the Master Agreement.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SaskPower and Black Lake First Nation reach tentative agreement on 50 MW run-of-river hydro project in Northern Saskatchewan

SaskPower and Black Lake First Nation have reached an agreement in principle for the construction and operation of the planned Elizabeth Falls run-of-river hydroelectric project in Northern Saskatchewan. The proposed Elizabeth Falls hydroelectric project, if approved by regulators, would be the first power production facility primarily built on First Nations land in Saskatchewan.

SaskPower and Black Lake First Nation expect to finalize the agreement in 2013. Under the tentative agreement, SaskPower will provide 70% of the project financing, but exact terms of the agreement have yet to be finalized.

Black Lake First Nation Chief Rick Robillard said this agreement means a lot of things to the band. “We will be the proud owners of a profitable long-term business, and the profits from this business, we believe, will make a big difference to the lives in people in our community and surrounding region.”

“This project will provide contracting opportunities for the band and other communities of the Athabasca region, particularly during the construction phase,” he said.

Black Lake First Nation, the Elizabeth Falls Hydro Development Corp. and SaskPower are in discussions with other training facilities, “to come up with some training programs up in the North prior to the project, in terms of construction, the trades and the construction field, the heavy-equipment operations and all sorts of different types of trades that come with the whole project itself,” Robillard said.

The band owns the Elizabeth Falls Hydro Development partnership, said Ted de Jong, its corporate executive officer. The corporation is the business entity set up to develop the project on the band’s behalf.

“Many of the companies that would be involved in the construction are owned by the First Nations in the region,” de Jong said. He said the hope is that all those companies will take part in the construction phase.

Hydroelectric projects have a consistent cash flow, de Jong said, “which the community could be assured will be there for many generations to come.”

The Black Lake community became interested in developing this project 20 years ago, he said. “They’ve spent two decades bringing it to this point. In the past three years, they have undertaken a very detailed aquatic study and an environmental study related to potential impacts on the lake, on the river on the fish, on the wildlife, on everything.”

The site of the project would be near the Fond du Lac River, and the design for the facility does include a dam on the river as it is a true run-of-river project.

He said they are still discussing the size of the band’s ownership stake in the project with SaskPower. “We recognize, from the Black Lake perspective, that we don’t have the financial ability to be a, you know, 50-50 owner.”

Robillard said the project could be a new “stepping stone” towards First Nations partnerships with governments, and it will help meet the growing demand for hydroelectric power in the North, particularly due to increased uranium mining activity in the Athabasca basin.

SaskPower’s vice-president of business development, Grant Ring, said relations with the Black Lake First Nation are very good and they’ve been working closely on negotiations for the past year.

“We expect it [relations] to be good and continue through, basically from now on,” Ring said.

“What we’re excited about at SaskPower is that this is probably the best site in the province right now to develop a hydro project that doesn’t require a dam, it’s basically run of river, it’s very environmentally friendly and that’s important that the community endorsed the project.”

The Elizabeth Falls project has a planned capacity of 50 MW. Project costs are estimated to be between $300-$350 million CAD. The expected lifetime of the project is 90 to 100 years. The plant is expected to run at 90 percent capacity. Subject to regulatory approval, construction of the project could begin in the latter half of 2014 with completion and operation slated for 2017.

Sources: Newstalk 650 CKOM,