'Look out your window'

March 25, 2021

But while some believe that macrogrids are the answer, one B.C. First Nation has gone in the opposite direction.
In 2014, the Kanaka Bar Indian Band struck a 40-year deal to produce and sell hydro power back to the provincial utility — and now those revenues are helping to fuel other renewable projects.
Chief Patrick Michell says the community has seen the growing impacts of climate change. They have also felt the effects of the province's boom-and-bust resource economies — things like mining, forestry and agriculture.
So in 1978, two years after the area's residential school closure, the community was looking for a way to create a sustainable and more predictable future for the generations that followed.
"We found that the renewable energy sector is predicated on the sustainable use of land resources, so you can actually have an economy without extraction and exploitation," he said.
Then in 1988, when BC Hydro and the province of British Columbia decided to open its grid to independent power producers, Kanaka Bar jumped at the chance.
Now they have a run-of-river hydro project that sells energy back to BC Hydro. They're also investing in smaller green energy projects that power housing, an administration centre, a health centre, weather station and more.
In Kanaka Bar, solar panels and other renewables power the First Nation's band office, health centre, housing, weather stations and more. The band also sells run-of-river power to BC Hydro, securing their energy future. (Submitted by Kanaka Bar Indian Band)
The community is also planning three "resiliency centres" — a community centre, an affordable housing development and 12 shelter units — that will be powered by renewable energy and backup batteries.
"We need to prioritize infrastructure investments today," said Michell. "I use this analogy: Why would you build a waterline and fire hydrant while your house is burning? Isn't it better to make proactive investments today, so that the trauma of tomorrow is avoided?"
Of course the projects come with a hefty upfront cost, but Michell argues they more than pay for themselves over time. A project might take 17 years to pay back, he says, but if it runs for 30 years, the community gets 13 years of power at no cost.
"So it really comes down to a decision by governments — municipal, Indigenous, federal, provincial — or families whether or not they'll make that investment if the capital costs today can generate savings for 40 or 50 years. And we think in terms of decades. We don't think about the business case today."
Youth in the community are also responsible for operating the solar-powered weather stations, which they designed and built — and that youth engagement is also a key part of the plan.
"It's their future. We empower our youth. We reversed the adverse effects of colonization through the renewable energy sector. We're going to be okay for the next 100 years," said Michell.
He also has a warning for other jurisdictions who aren't preparing for the future.
"We're watching these extreme weather events, and people are always concerned about the Caribbean storms or the extreme drought and fires in Australia," he said. "No, look out your window, because that's what you need to get ready for."
Full article found here: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/whatonearth/climate-change-could-cripple-canada-s-power-grids-here-s-what-we-can-learn-from-texas-1.5955545