The government of Canada has approved a $40.5 million investment towards an Indigenous-led geothermal development project in Alberta, after support from the First Nations Major Projects Coalition.
“If you have got a project, we need to see it is viable and then it goes through the environmental assessment process and then it comes to the board of directors for their approval on supporting the project,” said Cheslatta Carrier Nation elected chief Corrina Leween and vice chair of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition (FNMPC).
Last week, on Mar. 12, Seamus O’Regan Jr., Canada’s minister of natural resources announced the investment for the Clarke Lake Geothermal Development Project, a completely Indigenous-owned and led project to develop one of the first commercially viable geothermal electricity production facilities in Canada.
The project is being developed by the Fort Nelson First Nation with Saulteau First Nations in the existing Clarke Lake gas field in B.C. and will use mid-grade geothermal heat resources in its reservoir to reduce emissions by displacing fossil fuels. It will also help demonstrate the value of geothermal energy as a viable clean energy technology for rural, Indigenous and northern communities.
“The importance of the project is net zero emission. Having a sustainable energy generation facility in that area, is one of a kind in Northern B.C. When considering a project, the emissions, environment and the economy are all important but we always look at the environmental impacts in the assessment process that we go through in our major projects coalition,” said Leween.
Niilo Edwards, who is the executive director at the FNMPC said that the organization is taking a supportive role for the project at the request of its members at the Fort Nelson First Nation.
“The electrification of industrial development really provides a lot of opportunities for us because Indigenous communities have a lot of energy-projects. Clarke Lake project is a great example of this, we also have the Netoo hydro project at the Kenney Dam that we are working on with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, so I think what you are going to see in the future is more leadership by Indigenous communities to provide clean sources of power, to reduce green house gas emission by industries. This project at Clarke Lake is really the way for future,” he said.
The FNMPC encourages its members to bring to them projects such as these that work towards sustainability.
“We are open to hear other ideas from other communities where they think there is a sustainable project that they can develop and benefit from in the long run. We are anti-politics so we just have this message out there that the services are available to the First Nations communities,” said Leween.