The Tahltan Nation has purchased a five per-cent stake in three run-of-the-river projects in Northwest B.C., marking the largest clean energy investment in B.C. history by a First Nation.
The $124.3 million purchase from Axium Infrastructure Canada and Manulife Financial Corporation is for what’s collectively known as the Northwest British Columbia Hydro Electric Facilities. The asset is valued at over $2.5 billion.
President of the Tahltan Central Government, Chad Norman Day says the deal is one of several recent examples of how the nation is using its collective title and rights to foster economic independence.
“A buy-in of a project this size is extremely substantial and puts on us a good path of being self-determining in the future,” he says. “Anytime we better position ourselves to be economically independent, it gives us more leverage with future opportunities that may arise with other industries across the territory.”
The facilities comprise of the Forrest Kerr, McLymont Creek and Volcano Creek run-of-the-river projects with a combined power output of 287 megawatts. All three projects are located in traditional Tahltan territory.
The nation put up $28 million of its own dollars in the purchase with bond financing covering the remaining $124.3 million. Day expects seven-figure returns in the first year, with annual increases for 56 years until the loan is paid off.
Originally owned by AltaGas, the facilities have been in operation since 2014 and were underpinned by three separate 60-year, fully-indexed electricity purchase agreements with BC Hydro.
Day expects the lifespan of the project to exceed that time frame.
“The thought had always been once that 60-year project expires into the future the river providing all this power will continue flowing in a good way, and the asset will continue generating money. So we’re hoping that the projects will provide power for 100 years and thereafter.”
The Tahltan Nation originally became equity owners in one of the facilities in late 2014 after purchasing a 2.7 per cent interest.
In June 2018, AltaGas sold 35 per cent of its interest in the facilities, to a joint venture company for $922 million. More than a year later, AltaGas announced the sale of its remaining 55 per cent interest to Axium Infrastructure Canada and Manulife Financial Corporation for $1.39 billion.
The Tahltan Nation is located in Northwest British Columbia and comprises the communities of Iskut, Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek. The Territory spans 95,933 square km of Northwest B.C., or the equivalent of 11 per cent of the province.