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Energy and Economic Diversification for Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Coaldale solar farm West plus East block

Reducing dependence on diesel power led to economic diversification for this First Nations community.

Fort Chipewyan is an off-grid community that normally has only a 3-month window to bring in all the diesel fuel needed to power the community for a year. That is changing.

Jason Schulz is Director of Strategic Advisory Services, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and he not only sees the environmental benefits of renewable energy, but the economic opportunities presented by energy diversification as well. He led ACFN’s effort to invest in renewable energy to reduce diesel dependence in his own community, and to partner with Concord Green Energy to build renewable energy projects outside their traditional territory.

The federal government recently announced $160M for solar energy projects in Alberta through the Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program. The Athabasca CRibbon cuttinghipewyan First Nation and Concord Green Energy Partnership was one of the projects included in the announcement and the funding will help add battery storage capacity to existing solar arrays in the province. Those solar arrays were built largely by Indigenous workers and Jason expects the same training and employment benefits for the battery storage project.

Freelance broadcaster Don Hill talked with Jason Schulz about the new project and about the ACFN journey that started with a need to diversify the community’s energy sources and has led to business and economic diversification as well.

Solar project images courtesy of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Iron & Earth is committed to partnering with Indigenous workers to empower their communities to become self-sufficient in training programs, clean energy transition projects, and employment opportunities to combat environmental racism. It falls to all of us to continue the work of healing and reconciliation in our communities and our organizations. Our relationship with the land and the people who live here shapes who we are. It is in the spirit of reconciliation and honouring the past that we recognize treaties and agreements wherever they are and wherever we work.

We also acknowledge all peoples who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
As individuals and teams we may make mistakes along the way, but we are dedicated to growth, openness, compassion, and forgiveness. These principles in our work are essential to building successful and healthy relationships with individuals, communities, organizations, and governments.

We look forward to building a path to lead us to a better relationship with Indigenous nations and the environment around us based on peace, friendship, and respect.