Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua said the community has been working on a clean energy plan for the past 20 years. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Clean energy project to improve living standards at Xeni Gwet’in First Nation

Diesel use for electricity generation will be reduced by approximately 50,000 litres per year

A remote, off-grid First Nation community west of Williams Lake will see more than two dozen homes transition from diesel generators to a cleaner, more reliable energy source.

The Xeni Gwet’in First Nation is receiving $1.86 million for a transmission line to connect 28 homes to the community’s hybrid clean energy micro-grid through the province’s Renewable Energy for Remote Communities (RERC) program.

Making the switch will result in diesel consumption for electricity generation being reduced by approximately 50,000 litres per year.

Chief Jimmy Lulua noted his community has been working on clean energy for the past 20 years with a goal of improving living standards for their people, as many still rely on gas/diesel generators and many don’t have running water.

Read More: B.C. First Nation-owned solar farm connected to the grid

“The community has always supported achieving self-sufficiency with alternative energy sources. Many of these initiatives align with our teachings to leave things how they were or better, and moving from generators to clean energy catalyses the conditions for improved living spaces.”

The Xeni Gwet’in First Nation clean energy project is one of four to be funded under the RERC program which is administered on behalf of the province by Coast Funds and the Fraser Basin Council to help remote communities move away from polluting diesel generators to cleaner energy sources.

“The Fraser Basin Council is happy to be working with Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and the Province of British Columbia as they demonstrate how a small community in a remote area can make positive change for sustainability,” said Fraser Basin Council executive officer, David Marshall.

“Powering homes with diesel comes with a considerable price tag, depends on long-distance fuel transport and results in high emissions. The Xeni Gwet’in have transitioned to a hybrid solar-diesel system that incorporates a cleaner, cheaper and more reliable renewable power source and extends the micro-grid to more people in the community.”

Read More: B.C. government adds to latest greenhouse gas emission targets

Work on the project is expected to begin in the coming year.

Once the underground line micro-grid extension project is complete, Lulua said living standards will improve in his community.

“We, as Xeni Gwet’ins, continue to be a role-model community to all First Nations communities and take pride in being a world-class model community.”

Announced by the province in the CleanBC Plan, the RERC program is a key part of B.C.’s Remote Community Strategy that targets 22 of the largest diesel generating stations and aims to reduce provincewide diesel consumption for generating electricity in remote communities by 80% by 2030.

“For millennia, First Nations have cared for and sustained these lands,” stated Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Scott Fraser. “Reclaiming healthy lands and clean, fresh air are necessities that are long past due, and important parts of the CleanBC plan.”

Last fall, School District 27 received a Clean Energy BC community improvement award for a solar and battery project at Naghtaneqed Elementary Junior Secondary School in the Nemiah Valley that was expected to reduce the district’s entire carbon footprint by eight per cent.

Prior to that improvement, the school, which is located within the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation community, used diesel generators to power the school.

Read More: SD27 awarded for innovative solar energy project at off the grid school

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