Located approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Prince Rupert on British Columbia’s northwest coast is Hartley Bay, the primary community and home of the Gitga’at Nation. Approximately 170 people reside in Hartley Bay throughout the year where traditional customs and structures (‘Ayawwx’ or ‘Law of the People’) are observed in concert with modern laws and policies. The territory itself is 7,500 square kilometers and includes rare and special ecosystems.
In their quest to be the “Greenest First Nation in Canada”, the Gitga’at people have embraced alternative ideas and concepts to move themselves forward. In keeping with this, the community chose to positively leverage its natural geography and over 4.5 meters of annual rainfall to initiate the development of a 900kW hydroelectric small storage, run-of-river hydro facility. This project is expected to be commissioned in late 2012 and will not only provide a more reliable energy source but will also eliminate the use of fossil fuels in the community. This shift will provide long-term social, economic, environmental, financial and cultural benefits that align with core interests of the Gitga’at people.
In support of this initiative, Sauder S3i began working with the community in the summer of 2010 to develop a business case model for the design and implementation of the hydro facility. Focusing on the development of financial scenarios and analyses, an Sauder S3i Graduate Intern developed a model to educate community members on the core benefits and opportunities the renewable energy installation is expected to provide. In addition, the financial models offer supporting documentation for the Nation’s mid to late stage funding efforts with external financial institutions and government partners. The analyses will also assist to inform negotiations with BC Hydro and other partners as the community works to establish reliable rates from a negotiated electricity purchase agreement with the Crown Corporation. This project has already drawn attention from political leaders across Canada and we expect this work will provide inspiration to other First Nations considering a move to renewable energy.