First Nations are Going Green

By Kate Taylor, Project Manager, Aki Energy

Peguis First Nation and Fisher River Cree Nation are going green – reducing utility bills and creating local green jobs – with the help of Green Communities Canada and Aki Energy. The two Manitoba First Nations partnered with Green Communities Canada, BUILD Winnipeg and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in the fall of 2012 to pilot a ground-breaking program called ‘PAYS for First Nations.’

First Nations going green! Green Communities Canada and Aki Energy launched the PAYS project to help Manitoba First Nations reduce energy bills and create jobs.

First Nations going green! Green Communities Canada and Aki Energy launched the PAYS project for Manitoba First Nations to reduce energy bills and create jobs.

The PAYS for First Nations pilot project is based on two simple ideas. First, that providing long term low-interest utility financing to First Nations allows communities to make long-term investments in cost-effective green energy and energy efficiency. The project worked with Manitoba Hydro’s Pay-As-You-Save financing program to offer financing over 20 years at 3.9% interest, enabling Peguis and Fisher River First Nation to install  more than 100 residential geothermal systems. One hundred per cent of the upfront cost of installation was covered by Manitoba Hydro and will be repaid through a small on-bill payment over the next 20 years. Participating Band members will see immediate reductions on their energy bills.

The second simple idea? That the installation of green energy and energy efficiency measures can create local employment opportunities. Thirty Band members were trained and certified in geothermal energy installation and will work to convert 50% of the housing stock in their communities to geothermal energy over the next five years.

According to project manager Kris Favell, Chief Peguis Construction is getting requests to install geothermal energy off-reserve, providing income and growth opportunities. “Not to mention,” says Favel, “ all the residents in Peguis with geothermal are absolutely thrilled with it. My phone is ringing off the hook with people wanting to participate in the program.”

“We’ve long wanted to see jobs created by lowering heating bills in our community,” says Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson. “Working with Manitoba Hydro’s PAYS Financing allows us to finally do it without having to divert funds from other initiatives.”

After the success of the pilot projects, Aki Energy was formed to oversee the delivery of the program to First Nations across Manitoba. Aki Energy is a First Nations-controlled social enterprise based out of Fisher River Cree Nation and the Winnipeg Social Enterprise Centre. Aki Energy is currently working on expanding the program, working with Opawkwayak Cree Nation, Chemawawin Cree Nation, Swan Lake First Nation and Long Plain First Nation.

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