The Seven Stars Energy Project is a collaborative effort between Enbridge and Six Nations Energy Development Limited Partnership. Centred in southern Saskatchewan, southeast of Weyburn, the wind energy project will be designed to produce 200 megawatts of power. Enbridge will develop, build and operate the project with support from a consortium of Indigenous partners including Cowessess First Nation, George Gordon First Nation, Kahkewistahaw First Nation, Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, Pasqua First Nation, and White Bear First Nations. “We’re pleased to be working with Enbridge and have the opportunity to strengthen our kinship with First Nations on this important renewable energy initiative,” said Brent Digness Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

Saskatchewan’s Minister of Trade and Export Development, Jeremy Harrison, said the project will increase Indigenous participation in Saskatchewan’s economy, create new jobs and advance economic reconciliation. “This is Enbridge’s first Indigenous partnership focused on wind energy generation and our first Indigenous partnership in Saskatchewan,” relayed Matthew Akman, Enbridge’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy. 

The next step for Enbridge et al is to secure the necessary environmental and regulatory approvals and finalize commercial agreements. As long as all the pieces fall into place, the project participants plan to break ground in 2025. Securing a long-term purchasing agreement with SaskPower for the produced power will support final investment decisions. The Seven Stars project is targeted to be operational in 2027.

On Monday, June 24th during a news conference following the announcement in Regina, Colin Gruending, an executive vice-president at Enbridge, said, “We’re co-investing alongside our Indigenous communities. These communities are near our current pipeline operations and with whom we’ve gradually strengthened [our] relationships.”

A wholly owned Enbridge indirect subsidiary is to develop, construct and operate the Seven Stars Energy Project. The First Nation and Métis partners will have the opportunity to acquire at least 30 percent equity ownership in the Project. Chief Matthew Peigan of Pasqua First Nation, “I credit Enbridge for kicking the door open…I don’t like to call it building bridges, I like calling it [filling] in the gaps because bridges crumble.”

The partners’ financial contribution will be partly supported by loan guarantees of up to $100 million from the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation (SIIFC). Indigenous communities are significantly disadvantaged when seeking financing through mainstream capital markets because the Indian Act does not permit First Nations to use their land and other assets as equity. Created in 2022, the Saskatchewan Indigenous Investment Finance Corporation (SIIFC), supports Indigenous participation in the province’s natural resource and value-added agriculture sectors. The SIIFC offers loan guarantees to eligible First Nations and Métis communities and organizations to support investment in forestry, mining, oil and gas, energy production and value-added agriculture projects. Minimum loan guarantees are five million dollars.

The lack of access to capital is regularly cited as a primary barrier to Indigenous economic growth and development. Once complete, revenues from the project will help fund housing, education and health care for members of the First Nations and Metis Nations, Chief Matthew Peigan of Pasqua First Nation said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about you and [me]. It’s about the wrongs that were created yesterday and how we can plan today and how we can make tomorrow better.”

With a final cost potentially reaching hundreds of millions of dollars, Chief Peigan shared with the media that they would be reaching out to the federal government with an eye on the Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program that was part of the 2024 budget. Through the program, the Government of Canada will guarantee loans up to $5 billion to unlock access to capital for Indigenous communities. Jake Sinclair, President of Six Nations Energy Development LP, said he is proud of their team for the work they have done and will continue to do with Enbridge providing energy for Saskatchewan and strong economic returns for Enbridge and the First Nations and Métis partners for many years to come.

Assuming all the approvals fall into place, the Seven Stars project will double the capacity for producing wind energy in the province. The Golden South Wind Energy project near Assiniboia, which came online in 2022, includes 50 turbines, which combined are capable of producing 200 megawatts of electricity. Owned and managed by Potentia Renewables, SaskPower purchases the power produced and a similar purchase agreement is sought for Seven Stars. Dustin Duncan, Minister Responsible for SaskPower, said work needs to be done over the summer on the power purchase agreement, and partnerships such as this will support the utility in reaching its emission reduction targets.

This is not the first renewable energy project Saskatchewan First Nations communities have been involved with. The Cowessess Renewable Energy Storage Facility is one example of a First Nation-owned renewable energy project that contributes to the economic sustainability of the First Nation. SaskPower is contracted to buy electricity from the hybrid wind/solar project for 20 years, with profits going to Cowessess First Nation. 

At Muskoday First Nation solar panels supply power to the school, band hall, fire hall and shop. Being connected to the three-phase power line of the First Nation, the generated power is fed to the grid at an agreed-upon price. Renewable energy is recognized as an economic opportunity for First Nations. Chief Evan B.G. Taypotat of Kahkewistahaw First Nation in Saskatchewan said having Indigenous ownership in companies would mitigate conflicts between industry and Nations. Recalling that in his childhood, his community strongly opposed development because their leaders ‘never had a seat at the table.’ Being able to be development partners ensures that all people benefit.

Enbridge’s Colin Gruending said a generational opportunity awaits should Ottawa’s program look like Saskatchewan’s. “Industry is ready to lead the way, and from what we can see, Indigenous partners are ready to join,” he said.

By Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 04, 2024 at 19:49

This item reprinted with permission from   Wakaw Recorder   Wakaw, Saskatchewan
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