Market Snapshot: Indigenous Ownership of Canadian Renewable Energy Projects is Growing
Release date: 2023-06-21
Canada is a world leader in renewable electricity generation, and the number of existing and proposed renewable energy projects keep growing.Footnote 1
Many of Canada’s renewable energy projects are on traditional Indigenous territoriesDefinition* or reserve lands.Definition* Indigenous communitiesDefinition* are increasingly participating in renewable energy projects across Canada. In 2022, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit entities were partners or beneficiaries in nearly 20% of Canada’s existing electricity-generating infrastructure, most of which produces renewable energy.Footnote 2
Renewable energy projects on traditional Indigenous territory or reserve lands increased steadily since the 1970s, and more than quadrupled from 2009 to 2020. This increase in the number of projects is largely due to growing electricity demand across the country, and the decreasing cost of solar and wind projects. Over the same period, Indigenous ownership on traditional Indigenous territory or reserve lands has modestly risen, with slightly over half the projects being wholly or partially owned by Indigenous communities over the 2010-2020 period.
Figure 1: Renewable energy projects by share of Indigenous ownership
Source and Description
Source: Hoicka et al. Reconciliation through renewable energy? A survey of Indigenous communities, involvement, and peoples in Canada. 2021. Elsevier.
Description: Description: This chart shows the number of renewable energy projects on reserve lands or in traditional Indigenous territories over time. Pre-1975, there were only seven projects. This increased to 27 in the 2000-2009 period, and to 120 in the 2010-2020 period. From 2010 to 2020, 40% of projects had no Indigenous ownership, 51% were partially or wholly Indigenous-owned, and 9% are unknown.
Indigenous ownership means Indigenous opportunity
Growing Indigenous participation in renewable energy projects may represent a significant economic opportunity, particularly in Canada’s 178 remote Indigenous and northern communities that are not connected to the North American electricity grid.Footnote 3 Currently, these communities predominantly rely on expensive and carbon-intensive diesel to generate electricity and heat.
Numerous government programs support the development of renewable energy projects in Indigenous communities and are expected to increase Indigenous participation in renewable energy projects in the future. These programs include the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities Program, the Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative, the Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program, and the Northern REACHE Program.
Projects in Indigenous traditional territories or communities
Drawing on recent research from Hoicka et al., of the estimated 194 active renewable projects associated with Indigenous communities in 2020,Footnote 4 most were in British Columbia (84) and Ontario (53). The number of projects in these provinces is likely due to the number and size of Indigenous communities, supportive provincial policies, and economics. Of all the active projects, 46% are hydroelectric, 21% solar, 17% wind, and 8% biomass. The remaining 8% was a mix of demand, distribution, district heating,Definition* and geothermal.Definition* 75% of these projects have a capacity of at least 10 megawatts (MW).Footnote 5 A description of individual projects can be found on the Indigenous Clean Energy website.Footnote 6 Some of the larger projects include:
- The Romaine Complex in Quebec: 1,550 MW
- Laforge-1 and Laforge-2 in Quebec: 1,197 MW
- Gabion River Hydro in British Columbia: 948 MW
- Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland and Labrador: 824 MW
- Chief Jimmy Bruneau in the Northwest Territories: 750 MW
- Lower Mattagami River Project in Ontario: 450 MW
Types of Indigenous project ownership
As Figure 2 shows, Indigenous communities have significant equity (or ownership) in renewable energy projects operating within their communities and, to a lesser extent, on traditional Indigenous territory.Footnote 7 Of the projects on traditional territory, 39% are wholly or partially Indigenous owned. Within Indigenous communities, 42% are wholly Indigenous-owned and 92% of projects have at least some Indigenous ownership.
Figure 2. Renewable energy projects by type of Indigenous ownership (2020)
Source and Description
Source: Hoicka et al., Reconciliation through renewable energy? A survey of Indigenous communities, involvement, and peoples in Canada. 2021. Elsevier.
Description: This chart shows the number of renewable energy projects on reserve lands or in traditional Indigenous territories in 2020, by type of Indigenous ownership. Most projects on traditional Indigenous territory (60 out of 113) have no Indigenous ownership. Of the 52 projects within Indigenous communities, 20 are wholly Indigenous-owned, and only two have no Indigenous ownership.
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