First Nations Power Authority leading the way and investing in the future
- Kerry Benjoe
Tucked away in the mezzanine level at the First Nations University of Canada is a small but steadily growing company determined to help create a greener and more sustainable world for future generations.
The First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) is North America’s only non-profit entity owned and controlled by First Nation communities operating in the electricity sector to clean Canada’s electricity grid.
FNPA CEO Guy Lonechild took the helm of the organization in 2018 and since then he has seen tremendous growth and doesn’t see it slowing down any time soon.
The organization was created in 2011 by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations to create a way to include Indigenous people into the provincial economy.
“FNPA specializes in designing procurement strategies that allows for participation in power sector opportunities meaning power purchasing agreements would be entered into with industry players or with SaskPower as a vertically integrated monopoly,” said Lonechild. “We are uniquely positioned to offer to our membership base opportunities for long-term, power-purchase agreements so they benefit on a contractual basis with a Crown utility like SaskPower.”
FNPA has a 166 members in six different provinces across the country.
Originally, the entity was designed to represent the province’s 74 First Nations. However, all 74 didn’t automatically become a member of FNPA, each decided whether or not to join.
The membership growth was achieved through several different methods such as community outreach, workshops and training such as Power 101, project financing and by developing strategic partnerships with industry players among others.
Lonechild said as the world moves towards eliminating its dependence on fossil fuels there is a growing interest globally in renewable energy. Because renewable energy like solar power, wind power and hydro power are still relatively new FNPA has become an industry expert.
“We write reports for the federal government,” said Lonechild.
Lonechild said he doesn’t miss politics because he loves his job. He knows the work being done today will benefit future generations and by getting Indigenous people involved from the start means long-term financial benefits.
“This is financial reconciliation,” he said.
In addition to promoting alternate sources of energy FNPA is also helping First Nations become more knowledgeable about energy efficiency this includes new building design, architecture, retrofitting and looking at other ways to become less reliant on energy derived from fossil fuels.
“There is an old saying, ‘the best use of a kilowatt is the kilowatt you don’t use,’ ” said Lonechild.
He said FNPA is working to educate and promote a more sustainable way to exist that causes the least amount of damage to the environment.
Lonechild credits his team for everything FNPA has accomplished thus far. He believes there is still more room for growth and FNPA needs young people to get involved especially entrepreneurs and anyone in a related field.
FNPA is hosting its annual conference on June 26th and 27th in Saskatoon. This year, FNPA will be giving out five awards that include, youth leadership, community energy champion, innovation in cleaner technology, Indigenous allyship individual and Indigenous allyship organization.
Each award recipient will receive a two-year scholarship for a master’s degree in energy security at the University of Saskatchewan. In addition, FNPA is offering five additional scholarships to the public.
Nominations for the awards will be accepted until May 30th. For more information call 1-855-359-3672.