Home Off the Top Indigenous Communities Acquire 40 Per Cent Interest in Alberta Powerline

Indigenous Communities Acquire 40 Per Cent Interest in Alberta Powerline

The Fort McMurray West 500-kV Transmission Project was energized in March 2019 ahead of schedule, on-budget and with an impeccable safety record. Credit: ATCO.

Seven Indigenous communities are now major stakeholders in Alberta PowerLine (APL), with a 40 per cent equity share. This move will allow these communities to not only be direct owners, but to actively participate in Alberta’s energy sector. The announcement was made by ATCO and Canadian Utilities Limited (CU) in September.

“Alberta PowerLine is a true Canadian success story, and an example for the world of how industry and Indigenous communities can work together to develop world-class energy infrastructure that benefits all constituents,” said Nancy Southern, chair & CEO, ATCO Ltd. “We are very proud of the collaborative spirit which, over several years of planning, allowed us to complete the project without an Indigenous or NGO objection. We are also deeply appreciative of the cooperation and commitment from all of the Indigenous communities along the line, whose centuries-old culture, histories, and knowledge helped us in shaping the route.”

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Bigstone Cree Nation, Gunn Métis Local 55, Mikisew Cree First Nation, by way of its business arm, the Mikisew Group of Companies, Paul First Nation, Sawridge First Nation and Sucker Creek First Nation are all the communities involved in the deal, and who will share this equity ownership.

“Throughout the project, we developed an exceptional relationship with the teams at Quanta and implemented a comprehensive Indigenous contracting strategy totaling $85 million, which allowed us to complete this state-of-the-art project ahead of schedule and on budget. Now, we are pleased to provide Indigenous communities with the opportunity to make a long-term investment in critical energy infrastructure that will provide them a stable source of income for years to come,” reported Siegfried Kiefer, president of ATCO Ltd. and president & CEO of Canadian Utilities Limited (CU). “Building respectful and mutually beneficial partnerships has long defined how we do business and was foundational to the success of Alberta PowerLine,” he added.

Despite APL being a partnership deal between CU (80 per cent) and Quanta Services Inc. (20 per cent) in 2014 when their plan was selected by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) to design, build, own and operate the Fort McMurray West 500-kV Transmission Project, it was decided after completion to sell it.

In June 2019, CU and Quanta Services Inc. entered into definitive agreements for the sale of 100 per cent of their interest in APL. As part of these agreements, an opportunity for Indigenous communities along the transmission line route to obtain up to a 40 per cent equity interest in APL was offered up by CU. These purchase option agreements are complete and the full 40 per cent Indigenous equity ownership of APL has been determined. What about the remaining 60 per cent? A consortium of investment and management funds make up ownership of the majority share.

APL is a 508 km long transmission line that runs from Wabamun, Alberta, just west of Edmonton, to Fort McMurray and is the longest 500-kV AC transmission line in Canada. Ranked among the top 50 infrastructure projects in Canada, this is not only major real estate for Indigenous communities, but also a high-profile investment.

Setting all kinds of standards including ones for funding partnerships, budget management, building partnerships, safety, and community engagement, the line went live in March 2019, ahead of schedule.

Despite the sale, CU will continue as the operator for APL over its 35-year contract with the AESO. They plan to continue their partnership with Indigenous communities in meaningful ways, such as through the establishment of maintenance and operational contracts, creating opportunities for training and local economic development.