BC Hydro wants to sell a portion of the planned expansion project of its hydro-electric power transmission network from Prince George to Terrace to area First Nations.

In a first for the crown corporation, the ownership opportunity for each First Nation would be based on how much of the planned 500 kilovolt line expansion line crosses over their traditional territories.

The provincial government and “BC Hydro are committed to working towards true and meaningful reconciliation by supporting opportunities for Indigenous peoples to be full partners in the inclusive and sustainable province we are building together,” said BC Hydro official Kevin Aquino.

A list of potential First Nations owners was not provided but this new line would roughly parallel the existing 500 kilovolt line running 450 kilometres from the Williston Substation south of Prince George to the Glennann Substation near Fraser Lake, to the Telkwa Substation between Houston and Telkwa and then to the Skeena Substation south of Terrace.

Aquino said BC Hydro has been speaking to First Nations between Prince George and Terrace since the beginning of the year in following instructions from the provincial government to explore options for Indigenous ownership and/or equity positions of BC Hydro infrastructure.

READ MORE: BC Hydro begins work to boost transmission line capacity

Exactly how any business arrangement would be financed or how First Nations would have an ongoing financial benefit were not disclosed.

“Discussions with First Nations regarding co-ownership are at a very early stage and a co-ownership arrangement has not been determined,” said Aquino.

The planned expansion of BC Hydro’s power supply to the northwest follows it receiving expressions of interest from 29 current and potential customers in the region this spring.

BC Hydro says the amount of power requested exceeds the capability of its current line.

“The results provide strong justification for the proposed new 500 kilovolt transmission infrastructure from Prince George to Terrace,” said Aquino.

Who the existing and potential customers are was not revealed with Aquino citing commercial confidentiality.

But the massive LNG Canada liquefied natural gas project already under construction in Kitimat and a prospective liquefied natural gas project, Ksi Lisims LNG, off the coast from the Nass Valley, have already signalled their interest in using BC Hydro power.

LNG Canada’s two production “trains” now under construction will use natural gas to compress natural gas into a super-cold liquid form for export but it is now talking to BC Hydro about using electricity if it decides to add two more trains.

And Ksi Lisims LNG, now undergoing an environmental review, is billing itself as a potential clean producer of liquefied natural gas by using electricity instead of natural gas.

A First Nations stake in BC Hydro’s planned new line would continue the growing economic presence of First Nations in large-scale regional industrial projects.

Although BC Hydro may be the first public sector enterprise to negotiate ownership or equity deals, the Nisga’a Lisims Government has a stake in Ksi Lisims LNG and the Haisla First Nation has a stake in Cedar LNG, a small-scale gas liquefaction facility planned for just outside of Kitimat.

BC Hydro did sign substantial economic benefits agreements providing money and jobs to First Nations when it built the 344-kilometre long Northwest Transmission Line running north of the Skeena Substation in the last decade.

And the provincial government signed agreements, also in the last decade, providing a bulk payment and then annual royalties from natural gas pipelines crossing their traditional territories.

One of those pipelines, the 670-kilometre long Coastal GasLink pipeline to supply LNG Canada, is now 89 per cent complete. Royalties will start when the gas begins to flow.

Coastal GasLink itself signed economic benefits agreements with First Nations who affiliated themselves with pipeline construction and services companies.

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