ENBRIDGE IS working on a number of potential renewable energy projects with the Gitxsan whose traditional territory takes in the Hazeltons and points north.
The list includes run of river projects as well as ones using other sources of power, say those involved.
The potential projects stem from long-standing discussions between the Gitxsan and Enbridge Renewables, a division of Enbridge that concentrates on “green” power projects.
Gitxsan involvement with Enbridge took on a sharp focus in early December when Gitxsan hereditary chief Elmer Derrick signed a deal to acquire an equity position in the company’s $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline project.
That set off protests within the Gitxsan community by Gitxsan people saying Derrick does not represent Gitxsan interests, including being opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Gitxsan, so far, have been the only First Nations group to publicly indicate it has a Northern Gateways equity arrangement with Enbridge.
And Derrick, the senior land claims negotiator for the Gitxsan Treaty Society, speaking last week, said the prospect of Enbridge participation in renewable energy projects offers an opportunity at providing economic development, jobs and income for Gitxsan people.
He specifically mentioned a run-of-river project at Cascadero Falls, located northeast of the Hazeltons and immediately adjacent to the now-closed Kemess copper mine.
“It’s a $160 million project,” said Derrick of a joint venture under discussion with Enbridge. “After seven years [of payments], we would own it.”
Power produced from Cascadero Fall would flow into the provincial grid via a transmission line built to service the Kemess mine, he added.
Derrick said the Gitxsan have been having discussions with Enbridge dating back to 2004.
Enbridge official Paul Stanway said it makes perfect sense for it to determine what role the company might take in economic development projects along the Northern Gateway pipeline route.
There are remote locations using diesel fuel for power that might be better served on a number of fronts by renewable energy projects, he said.
“We’re in active discussion with the Gitxsan Treaty Society with a number of renewable energy projects in their traditional territory,” said Stanway.
None were at the stage of being announced yet, Stanway added.
He said Enbridge itself is fast developing expertise in renewables and is investing heavily in renewable energy projects.
“It’s becoming an important part of our business,” Stanway added of renewable power.
He noted that while Enbridge in BC may be regarded only as an oil pipeline company, it has extensive assets in other parts of the country and in the United States in generating and transporting energy.
In Ontario, for instance, Enbridge is widely known as a natural gas utility company and is the largest gas distribution company in the country.
To date, Enbridge has wind projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec and solar and geothermal projects in Colorado and Oregon but no run of river projects yet, so any in the northwest would add a new dimension to its portfolio.
“Run of river is something new to us but it is something we’re very much interested in,” said Stanway.
He said Enbridge would welcome any and all economic development discussions with First Nations groups along its Northern Gateway pipeline route.