What it means for First Nations to Invest in Power
Thanks to Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation, Six First Nations tribes across the province are able to invest $93 Million in the construction of the Cascade Power Project, a natural gas power plant by Edson.
This will allow these six members— Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, Kehewin Cree Nation, O’Chiese First Nation, Paul First Nation and Whitefish Lake First Nation— an equity stake in the project, with the hope of giving Indigenous communities ownership in different projects going forward and provide a model for nation-wide economic reconciliation.
Why is this important?
Having an equity stake in a project provides you with leverage in the way projects are run and managed. Hopefully, this will permit some Indigenous communities the ability to have sway in how these projects are executed and interact with their communities, which has historically been a point of contention between various native communities and energy companies (to significantly understate it).
It also gives these communities financial returns when these projects succeed. The Cascade Power Project is expected to supply 8% of Alberta’s electricity demands in 2023. This means that at least some of the revenue gotten from fulfilling the demand will return dividends to these communities that they can then use to further re-invest in themselves. Thus, these communities also have an incentive to see these efforts succeed and are able to directly benefit from it.
Still, the program is not without its critics. As NDP’s Rachel Notley has pointed out, only certain First Nations groups have the option to participate in these loan programs, thus the scope of the effort is limited. She also points out that it doesn’t offer much in terms of self-determination for these tribes to support certain projects from which they might directly benefit.
This second critique may be the most salient. This program is only a model of economic reconciliation, meaning it solely allows for participating communities to gain financial value from acquiring stakes in the energy market. It does not allow for communities to benefit outside of the market.
Nevertheless, providing Indigenous communities with a seat at the boardroom table of these infrastructural companies and a chance to partake in their success will hopefully allow communities new ways to prosper within the current economic system.