UCCM, Northland deal earns higher rate by 1.5 cents/kWh
by Lindsay Kelly February 16, 2011 SUDBURY—Employment, trades training, and financial dividends for Manitoulin-area First Nations will be amongst the benefits of a new 50/50 partnership between Northland Power and the United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCM), according to the proponents.
Announced last week during a press conference in Sudbury, the UCCM-owned Mnidoo Mnising Power corporation is partnering with Northland, with each party contributing 50 percent of the investment capital, as well as reaping 50 percent of the profits.
The partnership will initially invest in the 60-megawatt, 33-tower McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm, scheduled to be erected by 2012 just outside of Little Current, but also takes into
consideration any future renewable energy projects—including wind, solar, hydro, natural gas, and bioenergy—developed within the scope of the traditional territories of the Mnidoo Mnising First Nations.
The partnership presents a model of how First Nations can work closely with the private sector
and government that not only benefits First Nations people, but also supports the province’s
renewable energy program, M’Chigeeng Chief Joe Hare said during the press conference.
“Today is a good day and it is also an historic day,” he said. “Today marks the first-ever
First Nations private sector partnership in renewable energy that sets a new bar for
Aboriginal/private-sector partnerships in the future.”
He emphasized that the First Nations are not merely participants in the project, but part
owners, assuming half the risk, but also rewarded with half the profits.
This partnership presents an opportunity for the First Nations to take advantage of
opportunities on behalf of Anishinabek families who struggle to make ends meet and have to
leave their traditional territories to find a means of survival, he added.
He suggested that the Anishinabek of Mnidoo Minising experience twice the rate of unemployment and earn 30 percent less in income than non-Native residents. By investing in renewable energy, the economic rewards will help keep their people at home, he said.
“We need to stop the hardship and the frustration and provide an economic foundation for our
communities,” he said. “We need to find the future for today’s youth, so we are seizing on
opportunities provided through the green-energy sector.”
Northland CEO John Brace noted the company’s history of working with First Nations on renewable energy projects in Canada, which includes a project with Constance Lake First Nation near Hearst and a project in Quebec. When the UCCM approached Northland about a partnership—the two parties have been in consultation since September—Northland was on board immediately, he said.
“It’s not just McLean’s Mountain, but potentially other projects in the land use area of the
UCCM,” Mr. Brace said. “We can provide clean electricity resources to Ontario and we’re going
to provide strength to the UCCM communities and hope for the future of their people and their
youth, and respecting the environment on the way. It’s a win-win-win all the way around for
The CEO noted that Northland has been researching sites in the Northeast Town since 2000, and put up its first wind data tower a year later, with the nearby community being “generally
supportive” of the project.
Not everyone backs the project, however. Ray Beaudry, a spokesperson for the Manitoulin
Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA) who has been expressed a laundry list of
concerns about the McLean’s Mountain project, said he has heard from First Nations community members who are upset that more consultation was not done with the UCCM member First Nations before the announcement was made.
“MCSEA has been informed that the communities are requesting that this partnership should be consulting with the communities,” he said on Monday.
Mr. Beaudry, who was barred from last Thursday’s meeting but registered his disapproval by
protesting in the lobby with a small group of fellow wind detractors, is worried that the
government will rubber stamp the McLean’s Mountain project without properly consulting the
“With the First Nations coming on board, the government usually looks favourably on these
arrangements, and usually approves projects,” he said. “We would hope that they would follow
all that is necessary in the REA process for impact studies and environmental studies.”
Referencing a statement made by the UCCM Tribal Council at a public meeting last spring that
outlined the UCCM’s opposition to the project, Mr. Beaudry questions how supportive the First
Nations really are of the new partnership.
But the UCCM says it was never fully opposed to the project. It just wanted to ensure that
proper consultation and accommodation—as outlined under First Nation treaty rights—was
completed before it endorsed the project.
“We are the people that were there traditionally—it’s our traditional territory,” said
Sheshegwaning Chief Joe Endanawas. “So that was the focus of our opposition—if you want to call it opposition—but we wanted to be accommodated according to what the government has put out there already.”
When asked whether he felt proper consultation had now taken place, the chief said it’s
difficult to judge now that the UCCM is a partner in the project, and he suggested that there
will always be opposition to a project like this.
“Even if we were consulted and accommodated to the fullest extent, I’m sure there would be
people who would say no,” Chief Endanawas said. “There’s no policy outline to say when
accommodation and consultation has been finished; it has to be an agreement between the two
parties saying yes, you did consult us, you did accommodate us. There will always be more
Recent policies developed by the UCCM outline the steps that need to be taken to ensure that
the member First Nations have been adequately consulted on future developments, he added.
It remains a sore spot for Mr. Beaudry, however. MCSEA has advocated for greater setbacks from the turbines because of the suggestion that wind turbines can cause detrimental health effects in humans. Currently setbacks are fixed at 550 metres, and MCSEA is seeking a setback of at least two kilometres. The Northland/UCCM partnership has increased the setbacks from the First Nation territories, but other communities have not had the same courtesy, he argues.
“Our biggest issue is the fact that Northland Power would not move turbines for anyone else for
health concerns, but yet once they partnered with the First Nations, they set them back from
their communities where they had previously identified they had a serious health concern,” Mr. Beaudry said. “If they move them away from First Nations land, why not move them for everyone? To me, they must recognize a health concern.”
“There seems to be a lack of transparency in this whole thing and I think the public should be
well made aware of what’s being proposed: the size of the turbines, the locations, water flows,
everything,” he added.
But Chief Endanawas believes that the concerns are those of a minority, and notes that while
the opponents have been vocal in their opposition to the project, advocates have not been
“There’s no solid information, pro or con,” he argued. “There are studies we see out there.
Other countries have been doing this a long time and they’re still doing it. If it was a big
problem, they probably would have shut those down. Until it’s proven that they are really
harmful, a lot of the opposition has been because of what it looks like, but just like anything
else, you get used to changes.”
The UCCM had to weigh the pros and cons of the project, and for the UCCM, the pros won out.
“As people we’ve been so depressed for all those years with lack of money, and we have to look
at ways of generating money for our people, and try and get things going,” Chief Endanawas said.
Acknowledging the controversy over the McLean’s Mountain project, Mr. Brace said Northland continues to try to allay the fears of those who oppose the project.
“We are doing everything we can reasonably do to address the concerns of everyone,” he
said. “Whether there’s a magical day at some point in the future where everybody just loves the
project, I don’t know that we’d ever get that far.”
Mr. Brace confirmed that, under the Feed-in Tariff program of the Green Energy Act, a
partnership with a First Nation will garner a proponent up to an additional 1.5 cents per
kilowatt, meaning even greater rewards for Mnidoo Mnising Power.
“If you have a First Nation partner in a project for wind projects you can get up to 1.5 cents
extra on the electricity price if the First Nation is a 50-ercent partner on the project,” he
explained. “If they’re less than 50, then it declines from 1.5 cents.”
But he insisted that Northland is in the partnership because “it’s the right thing to do.”
“The partnership here, it’s very much about trying to do the right thing, and I think First
Nations have an opportunity through the Green Energy Act and other things to participate in
opportunity in a way they’ve never been able to participate before,” Mr. Brace said. “I think
Benefits of the Northland-Mnidoo Mnising Power collaboration will include remuneration to
community members, noted Chief Hare, although what the benefits will be haven’t been ironed out yet.
Considerations include a hydro subsidy that would offset the cost of hydro in a home, or
employment during the construction of the wind farm. Another option may be training through the Manitoulin Wind and Solar Institute, via an articulation agreement with Sault College, which will give youth the skills needed to be hired in the renewable energy sector. Already two courses—one in the pre-electrical trades and another in solar installation—have been offered to community members.
First Nations group should be mindful of wind power project
The UCCM First Nation group would do well to conduct a careful, diligent examination of the
renewable energy projects it supports (“UCCM, Northland partner on McLean’s Mtn. wind farm,” February 9).
Their recent endorsement of the wind power project on McLean’s Mountain was untenable.
William R. Ritching
Ontario suspends offshore wind farms for further research
by Lindsay Kelly
February 16, 2011 ONTARIO—The province’s plan for renewable energy hit a snag last week, after a hold was put on all offshore wind power project developments in the Great Lakes pending further research, while Ontario is also holding off on approval for solar projects with an agreement-in-principle in place.
“We will be working with our US neighbours to ensure that any offshore wind projects are
protective of the environment,” Environment Minister John Wilkinson said in a February 11 press release. “Offshore wind on freshwater lakes is a recent concept that requires a cautious
approach until the science of environmental impact is clear. In contrast, the science
concerning land-based wind is extensive.”
No offshore wind projects had been approved for Ontario, and the government said in the release that no applications would be accepted, while any current applications would be suspended.
The announcement was welcome news to Ray Beaudry, a spokesperson for the Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA), who has been vigilant in asking for more tests to be done before the province’s green-energy plan goes into effect.
“It shows that we’ve been making headway, that the proper studies aren’t being done through the rush for the provincial Liberals to approve the Green Energy Act without looking into it,” Mr. Beaudry said on Monday.
He is hopeful that the government’s next announcement will bring a halt to the land-based wind power projects like the one proposed for McLean’s Mountain just outside of Little Current, to which he has been vocally in opposition.
“We expect that other wind farms on land will be terminated, or put on hold, until the proper
studies are done,” Mr. Beaudry said. “All we’ve ever been asking for is to do the proper
studies and set the proper setbacks.”
According to a study prepared by the Ontario Power Authority in 2008, entitled Analysis of
Future Offshore Wind Farm Development in Ontario, a total of 64 sites in the Great Lakes have
been identified as prime offshore wind-generation sites. Of those, several locations are off
the southern coast of Manitoulin, as well as half a dozen in northern Georgian Bay.
Overall, 27 locations have been identified in Lake Huron, 25 have been found in Lake Erie, and
three have been pinpointed in Lake Superior.
In its release, the provincial government indicates that no offshore wind projects are
currently operating in North America, and cites the recently implemented Lake Vanern pilot
project in Sweden as one of the only operational freshwater offshore projects in the world,
although a pilot has also been proposed for Ohio.
The province will monitor the pilot projects and examine the data.
In addition to the stop to offshore wind projects, the government announced that it would stall
approval for the nearly 14,000 solar power projects that had received an agreement-in-principle from the province under the MicroFit program. The program initially offered a payback of 80.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for operators of ground-mounted solar installations feeding into the grid, although that number was later lowered to 64.2 cents per kilowatt.
A total of 3,700 projects have been approved for the grid, with another 2,500 waiting for
approval, and 13,800 have been given conditional approval.
The switch has meant that landowners who have invested thousands of dollars in a solar energy project are losing out. The London Free Press cited the case of farmer Henry Aukema who spent $85,000 on solar panels, only to have his project later cancelled under the new policy.
Mr. Beaudry argues that this is par for the course. If people put out the money for a project,
they may lose their investment, as it’s unlikely they’ll secure a contract at this point.
“If they’re not on the grid now, I’ll bet they don’t get connected,” Mr. Beaudry
speculated. “It’s a gamble; it’s just like playing the stockmarket. When governments change,
subsidies end, and that’s what’s happening.”