Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Federal government invests millions into Alberta Indigenous owned clean energy projects

The federal government announced $175 million for Indigenous-owned clean energy projects in the province, Sept. 18, including funding for a pair of Chiniki First Nation and Goodstoney First Nation owned projects in Calgary.

Minister of Labour and Seniors Seamus O’Regan, making an impromptu off-the-cuff remark about the investments during a gust of wind, said “we’re gonna make money off of this!”

The investments made by the federal government from the Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program were designed to support economic improvement on First Nations through good-paying high-skilled jobs, and sustainable industry.

“We want to make sure too, that First Nations have not only a crack at the jobs, but are learning the skills that would go beyond even their own communities,” said Minister O’Regan.

“There are companies that can be built… that’s a huge, huge opportunity for them. The other benefit too, is government can work with First Nations here in Alberta to provide them with the financial stability and regulatory surety. When you have those things in place, you’re going to drive investment.”

Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, said that there were extraordinary economic benefits to be gained from investing into clean technologies right now.

“Businesses large and small, governments, and others are in a race to reduce carbon emissions and to seize the extraordinary economic opportunities that can come through a transition to a low carbon future,” he said.

“Global financial markets are increasingly driving these decisions through their investment choices with smart money looking to move away from investments that are not compatible with a low carbon future and toward those that are.”

Among the projects announced on Monday were the complete Barlow Solar Park and the under construction Deerfoot Solar Park.

Both were joint ventures between ATCO and Chiniki First Nation and Goodstoney First Nation, with the latter owning 51 per cent of the project

The Barlow project received $4,033,231, while the Deerfoot project received $9,214,092.

Together both were expected to provide 64 MW of electricity, and reduce emissions by 51,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. The projects are expected to provide energy for approximately 16,500 homes, and create 1,130 jobs.

Three additional ATCO projects affecting dozens of communities across Alberta were announced to be receiving $63.5 million from the federal government. Those projects would create an advanced distribution management system in Vegreville, provide asset modernization in 27 communities, and deploy 230,000 advanced metering technologies in 190 communities.

Together those projects are expected to reduce emissions by 2,388 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Minister of Labour and Seniors Seamus O’Regan, left, and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson speak through a wind gust at an announcement of renewable energy investments made by the federal government—including that of wind power—at the Barlow Solar Park in Calgary on Monday, September 18, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Federal ministers address provincial pause on renewables

In a nod to what has become a divisive conversation about the place for renewable energy in Alberta, Minister Wilkinson said that Canadians have two paths to economic prosperity before them: one, to become a world leader in renewable energy that is in line with scientific consensus about climate change and global investment.

Or two, to simply shrug off the damaging effects of climate change, and to weather the outcomes of a lack of investment on the hope that climate change isn’t real.

“The second path, I would say represents a terrible gamble, one that effectively is betting against the environmental imperatives that are all around us. One that will less lead to both environmental and economic devastation,” he said.

“This federal government has chosen the first path.”

Minister Wilkinson said that he has had conversations with his provincial counterpart, Minister for Energy and Minerals Brian Jean, and that he expected that renewable projects would once again begin to receive approval after the province was satisfied their concerns with the current approval process.

“I respect the Government of Alberta and I have no reason to question that. I think the Government of Alberta intends beyond the suspension to continue on with renewable energy, and we certainly want to work with them just as we have in the past,” Wilkinson said.

“I mean, Alberta leads Canada in the deployment of renewable energy it has attracted billions of dollars investment in this province.”

He said among his discussions with delegates to the World Petroleum Congress, that there has been a wide range of discussions about how to decarbonize the oil and gas industry—and that discussion includes using clean energy technologies.

“There are going to be uses for oil and gas in the future, especially in non combustion applications or abated combustion applications. But that only works if you actually get to the point where you actually have production emissions that are zero or near zero,” Wilkinson said.

“There are a whole range of opportunities for diversification. (That) Includes hydrogen for natural gas, but it certainly includes renewable energy and you see that with ATCO being one of the one of the participants here today.”

Minister O’Regan, adding to Minister Wilkinson’s comments, said that he didn’t think the renewable approval pause would affect the opportunities presented for investment into Alberta.

“I’ve often said to anybody who had any hesitation, follow the money, just follow the money. This is where the money is going. And Alberta has such an advantage over the rest of the country,” he said.

“If it takes a few months to because Alberta wants to make sure that they get the regs right, and they get everything right, that’s fine. This money ain’t going anywhere. And you know, as I’ve joked with some of my colleagues here in Alberta in the past, I know that there are some people in the United Conservative Party who believe in a free market.

“The market is speaking, the market is speaking. That is where the money is.”