Chad Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government (Photo: Mark Alvarez)
Mark Alvarez / PNG
The Tahltan First Nation, whose traditional territory encompasses some of the most resource-rich lands in B.C., is now an equity owner in three hydro-electric facilities collectively valued at over $2.5 billion. It is believed to be the largest clean energy investment by a First Nation in B.C.The Tahltan Nation has purchased a five per cent stake in Northwest British Columbia Hydro Electric Facilities for $124.3 million from Axium Infrastructure Canada and Manulife Financial Corporation.“It’s a historic, unprecedented situation for the Tahltan Nation to be able to own such a significant portion of a major project in our territory,” said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. “It’s been a long time coming for our people to start becoming equity partners in some of the major projects in our territory.”The power-generating facilities are comprised of three run-of-the-river projects: Forrest Kerr, McLymont Creek and Volcano Creek, located in Tahltan territory.
Forrest Kerr is a 195-megawatt run-of-river hydroelectric project located on the Iskut River in British Columbia, approximately 1,000-kilometres northwest of Vancouver. (Submitted photo: Bretton Communications)
Originally owned by Calgary-based AltaGas Ltd. the projects went operational in 2014 and 2015, producing about 277 megawatts of clean electricity sold to B.C. Hydro under three separate 60-year purchase agreements.The Tahltan Nation’s purchase of a five-per cent interest in the three facilities, expected to be announced Monday, is the largest clean-energy investment by a First Nation in B.C. and possibly in Canada.A consultant hired by the Tahltan Nation indicated there may be other examples of large clean-energy investments in other parts of Canada, but the agreements are confidential which makes it difficult to assess how they compare to the Tahltan deal, said Day.“For now, it’s definitely the biggest clean energy ownership stake in a project this big in British Columbia and it could be the biggest ever in Canada.”He also noted that the Tahltan Nation — located in northwest B.C. and includes the communities of Telegraph Creek, Dease Lake and Iskut — is doing this on its own and is not partnering with other First Nations.The deal is projected to bring in returns in the “seven figures” over the next five decades to the Tahltan Nation. There are also clauses in the impact benefit agreements signed with AltaGas that gives the First Nation more opportunities down the road to buy into the project further.“The wealth from this project is going to be substantial,” said Day, and will bring the Tahltan closer to achieving economic independence.“That’s our goal — to rebuild that self-determination our people had for thousands of years. To do that in the modern world we need the economic resources to do so,” he said. “We are on a good path, and this is one of the major accomplishments along the way.”Axium and Manulife became majority owners of the Northwest British Columbia Hydro Electric Facilities after they acquired 55 per cent interest from AltaGas in a $1.39-billion deal announced in January.Axium and Manulife, through a joint venture company, had already bought a 35 per cent stake in the facilities for $922 million in June 2018. At the time, AltaGas said the sale was part of a larger funding strategy related to its acquisition of a U.S. public utility holding company.In 2011, the Tahltan signed impact benefit agreements with AltaGas, which provided revenue-sharing and employment opportunities and included provisions that would allow the Nation to become equity owners in the project at different stages.In 2014, a newly-elected Day took advantage of that opportunity by spearheading the purchase of a 2.7 per cent stake in the Volcano Creek facility, the smallest of the three projects, for $2 million.AltaGas advised the Tahltan Nation in November 2018 that it wanted to sell majority stake to Axium and Manulife, triggering a process of negotiation and due diligence between the companies and the Tahltan Nation, Tahltan Central Government and Tahltan Heritage Trust. The parties reached an agreement in December.The Tahltan Nation now owns five per cent of the facilities, while Axium and Manulife own 85 per cent. An AltaGas Canada subsidiary, AltaGas Canadian Energy Holdings Limited Partnership, owns 10 per cent.The Tahltan has a 7.7 per cent interest in the Volcano Creek email@example.com/cherylchan