This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.

Science & Tech

How First Nations are changing the clean energy landscape

A new program aims to help indigenous communities become trailblazers of renewable energy development in Canada
  • Jul 12, 2016
  • 397 words
  • 2 minutes
Tanna Pirie-Wilson, right, participates in a session on Day 2 of the 20/20 Catalysts program Expand Image

Tanna Pirie-Wilson has a bold vision.

The 36-year-old from Tobique First Nation, located northwest of Fredericton, New Brunswick, wants to see the community of nearly 2,000 people become a leader in clean energy production and sustainable housing in Atlantic Canada.

The provincial government announced last year it is looking to partner with First Nations and other community groups on small-scale renewable energy projects. Pirie leapt at the opportunity and is looking to develop a solar power pilot project for Tobique as well as a wind farm with a production capacity of 20 megawatts.

On July 11, she joined 19 other First Nations leaders from across Canada in Wakefield, Que. for the inaugural session of the 20/20 Catalysts program.

“There’s an amazing amount of knowledge among the participants,” Pirie said. “Sometimes as First Nations we can be so siloed because of the different needs of our communities, so it’s really exciting to see this shared passion for protecting our resources.”

The Catalysts, as they are collectively known, hail from seven provinces and all three territories, but they, like Pirie, believe that indigenous people will set the agenda for renewable energy development in Canada. The 20/20 program is designed to give them the skills and contacts they need to advance clean energy projects and create jobs in their own communities.

Over the course of three weeklong sessions, they will hear from mentors in the government, financial and energy sectors on diverse topics like how to facilitate community consultations, how to secure project financing, and how to navigate the environmental assessment process. 

After the program concludes, the Catalysts will be encouraged to keep in touch with their mentors and with each other as they turn their newfound knowledge into action.

Chris Henderson, president of Lumos Clean Energy Advisors and creator of the Catalysts program, said the program grew out of his belief that indigenous people have to be true partners in energy projects that take place on their land.

“Canada is looking more and more towards electric vehicles, smart grids, renewables, and there’s no reason why indigenous communities shouldn’t play in that space,” Henderson said. “I hope that in five years what we’ve done is create a First Nations clean energy network for Canada, with indigenous people driving the projects, owning the projects.” 


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

a silhouetted carbon capture industrial plant against a white mountain background as the sun rises, casting a warm glow over the landscape


The truth about carbon capture

Carbon capture is big business, but its challenges fly in the face of the need to lower emissions. Can we square the circle on this technological Wild West?

  • 5042 words
  • 21 minutes
The Humber Foton, a new solar-powered boat on the market, takes four to five days of sunshine to get fully charged


Recreation revolution

From energy-efficient stadiums to solar-powered boats, making leisure time clean and green is all the rage

  • 1820 words
  • 8 minutes
PLAT-I tidal energy platform in Grand Passage, May 2019

Science & Tech

Testing the future of tidal energy in Nova Scotia

In the Bay of Fundy, technicians are putting a groundbreaking new tidal technology through its paces

  • 1439 words
  • 6 minutes

Science & Tech

Energy use in Canada

Where and how we live affect how much energy we consume. Here’s what Canada would look like if the provinces and territories were scaled to represent the amount of energy they use.

  • 661 words
  • 3 minutes