The Douglas First Nation is getting ready to wean itself off diesel-generated power as it awaits connection to North America's power grid.
The First Nation, one of three seeking a treaty under the flag of the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, has had four run-of-river projects come online within its territory but it has yet to connect Douglas's two communities to the Western Interconnect, a power grid that stretches from B.C. and Alberta and south along the west coast, all the way down to Baja, California.
Until that happens it will have to depend on power generated through diesel but the chief negotiator for the In-SHUCK-ch Nation said the Douglas First Nation should be on the grid by the end of the year.
"The commitments I've received from B.C. Hydro is that all of the communities down there are going to be connected by the end of this calendar year," said Gerard Peters.
In-SHUCK-ch communities have long depended on diesel just to get electricity. That all changed when Cloudworks Energy Ltd., a Vancouver-based renewable energy company, took an interest in developing run-of-river projects in the area. It has since acquired licenses to build eight facilities - Douglas, Fire, Stokke Creek, Tipella, Lamont, Upper Fire, Upper Stave and Northwest Stave River, all of them classified under the name Harrison Hydro LP.
The first four projects, located at the top of Harrison Lake, came online in the past summer and were working by October, according to Nick Andrews, a principal with Cloudworks.
"They've been online for, I'd say since late summer, mid-summer of (last) year," he said. "It's sort of been a bit sequential, they were all working together by October of last year."
The other three projects, also located within In-SHUCK-ch territory, are at various stages of development. The Lamont project just began operation while the Northwest Stave and Upper Fire projects have their necessary permits but are not yet under construction. Each is waiting for a purchasing agreement from B.C. Hydro.
The Douglas First Nation had the option of getting power directly from the projects that are online now but they opted to wait until they could get connected to the grid, according to Andrews.
"Right now they're still on diesel," he said. "We've asked them if they want to be put on power from the projects, but they want to wait until B.C. Hydro has done some extra work. My understanding is that that's going to happen this year."
Connecting to the grid is key to allowing In-SHUCK-ch communities to build an economic base, according to Peters.
"With connection to the grid begins the effort to first develop and then operate businesses," he said. "I think we can see when the projects are under way and in construction, that represents a significant employment opportunity.
"When they're up and running, I think the profits that are derived from that sector can be invested elsewhere and I think the elsewhere is in the service sector, the service industry and tourism."
Andrews said that connecting Douglas to the grid is merely a matter of B.C. Hydro completing construction of an additional power line to the community. Cloudworks claims the projects offer the Douglas First Nation a chance to develop new housing and infrastructure.
Andrews estimated that his company has invested about $30 million on network upgrades that could eventually allow all In-SHUCK-ch communities to use power off the grid.