The B.C. government has pledged $500,000 toward the shíshálh (Sechelt) Nation’s equity investment in Renewable Power Corporation’s Narrows Inlet hydro project.
The funding was announced Oct. 28 under the First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund, with shíshálh one of only two First Nations to secure the half-million-dollar equity investment among the current round of applicants.
“We’re very happy that Sechelt qualified, but there’s a number of steps that have to take place,” Chief Garry Feschuk said after the announcement.
These include completion of the provincial environmental assessment process and formalizing an agreement with the proponents, Renewable Power Corp.
The third step will be obtaining approval from Band members.
“We still have to go before our community and get permission for our equity position,” Feschuk said.
He said it was “very fortunate” that Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad announced the grant during the 11th annual Clean Energy BC conference in Vancouver.
A total of $1.3 million was announced for 12 First Nations, with shíshálh and the Sts’ailes Band near Agassiz each receiving $500,000 commitments for equity funding and the other 10 receiving smaller amounts for capacity funding.
“I cannot overestimate the importance of building strong, innovative and respectful partnerships with First Nations around clean-energy projects and capacity building,” Rustad said at the conference.
According to the Ministry, the Narrows Inlet hydro project’s partners include Renewable Power Corp., Connor Clark & Lunn Financial Group and shíshálh Nation, which will be a minority owner of the project.
Proponent Peter Schober of Renewable Power Corp. confirmed Tuesday that the environmental assessment process is ongoing, while a working group composed of federal, provincial, local government and shíshálh Nation reps is also active.
“I don’t see a conclusion to this thing before Christmas, I’ll tell you that,” he said.
After scaling back the project from five to three plants last winter, the proponents have spent $600,000 on additional studies, he said.
He estimated the revised cost of construction to be more than $100 million.
The three plants would be located on Chickwat, Upper Ramona and Lower Ramona creeks, generating 33 megawatts. BC Hydro issued an energy purchase agreement for the project in 2010.
A backgrounder provided by the Ministry said shíshálh Nation will be eligible to receive the $500,000 grant after a contribution agreement is signed, setting out conditions under which the province would provide the funds.
“A contribution agreement with shíshálh Nation is not yet finalized,” the Ministry said.
Other conditions could require that all permitting is in place and that the shíshálh Nation has secure financing in place.
“Equity funding is provided to First Nations to fund projects where the province believes there is strong evidence the project will be successful,” the Ministry said. “However, this funding is not ‘venture capital’ in the sense that the province provides funding to successful applicants under terms set out by a contribution agreement only once all conditions have been met, and when the project is nearing the final phases of completion.”
In its media releases, the province refers to shíshálh Nation as “formerly Sechelt Indian Band,” but Feschuk said the old name won’t be officially dropped until Band members have agreed to the change.