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Tsilhqot’in Nation sounds alarm on proposed amendments to Clean Energy Act

Bill 17 has received its first reading
Amendments to the Clean Energy Act will do little or nothing to address affordability and could pose serious risks to B.C’s energy sovereignty if the province becomes dependent on energy infrastructure south of the U.S. border, and subject to the politics that have plagued NAFTA in recent years says the Tsilhqot’in Nation (Monica Lamb Yorski photo)

The Tsilhqot’in Nation is the latest B.C. First Nation calling on the NDP government to suspend amendments to the province’s Clean Energy Act and honour the law and their commitment to consult with First Nations.

Tabled under Bill 17, the amendment seeks to eliminate self-sufficiency from the Clean Energy Act which currently requires BC Hydro to meet forecast domestic demand only through its own electricity generation or by purchasing it from independent power producers (IPPs).

Located 80 kilometres west of Williams Lake along Highway 20, the Tsilhqot’in Nation worked for years to a build a 1.25-megawatt solar farm that only began feeding the B.C. Hydro grid this spring.

“Proceeding with Bill 17 at this point would be a blatant betrayal of all this government has said about its respect for and willingness to work with First Nations,” Yunesit’in Chief Russell Myers Ross said in a news release.

“The proposed amendments have profound implications for the economic and social well-being of Indigenous peoples in B.C., yet absolutely no meaningful engagement took place before this bill was brought forward.”

Read More: B.C. First Nation-owned solar farm connected to the grid

Bill 17 will have no impact on the the 25-year electricity purchase agreement between the Tsilhqot’in Nation and BC Hydro, according to the B.C. government.

Clean Energy BC executive director Laureen Whyte said the amendment will enable BC Hydro and its wholly owned subsidiary Powerex Corp. to freely import energy from other jurisdictions, primarily the U.S., rather than just in B.C. 

She said while existing contracts between BC Hydro and IPPs will be not impacted, they are concerned for IPPs whose electricity purchase agreements will soon be expiring.

“We’re concerned that those will not be renewed so existing facilities will be stranded capital. For IPPs that are in development phase it means there will be no future opportunity for those to actually get built,” she said.

Read More: NDP changing B.C. Hydro rules to import clean electricity

Representing 14 B.C. First Nations on Vancouver Island, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council is also concerned with the proposed amendments to the Clean Energy Act and said 13 of the Nations are involved in the development and production of clean energy or want to be.

President Judith Sayers said it was a surprise the amendment was done.

“They [BC Government] did have a Phase 2 review of BC Hydro and asked people about self-sufficiency. An interim report which was meant to be a discussion paper did not have any conclusions regarding self sufficiency,” she stated in a news release.

“If they really cared about what people in B.C. are concerned about, why didn’t they wait for the final report with recommendations? If they were going to do what they want, why bother wasting everyone’s time in responding to the Phase 2 report?”

Read More: BC Hydro seeing 10% dip in electricity demand, concerned about reservoir spillover

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources noted market prices are forecast to range from $23 to $41 per megawatt hour for the foreseeable future whereas pricing under the stand-alone program was at around $110 per megawatt hour.

“We are dedicated to electrifying our economy and meeting our Clean BC goals. This requires maintaining affordable electricity —something we won’t have if we had kept the standing offer program,” the ministry said in an e-mailed response.

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