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Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw harnesses the power of the sun in Squamish

Solar panels are going up on 13 Nation homes, thanks to a provincial government fund.

Thanks to a B.C. government fund, the electricity bills for some Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) homeowners should soon be going down.

Through the First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund (FNCEBF), the province is providing four First Nation communities with a total of $300,000 in clean energy funding.

In Squamish, the Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society is using its $150,000 from the fund to install solar energy units on 13 residential roofs.

"This funding will help us provide clean, secure and affordable energy for our members living in the Squamish Valley,”  said Sxwíxwtn Wilson Williams, a spokesperson and councillor with the Nation, in a news release.

“It will also play a big role in achieving our long-term climate goal of net-zero emissions.”

Donalene Rapada, of the Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society, said that the panels are being placed on rental units on the Waiwakum reserve.

She said tenants in the "13 Plex" have faced exorbitant hydro bills in the wintertime. 

"This is supposed to address that.”

She credits project leader James Griffiths for spearheading the initiative — hiring and training several Nation youth.

"We're always looking to hire our members for employment," she said.

Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin told The Squamish Chief that funding these projects is a small act of reconciliation. 

"Many First Nations — Squamish is not different — have a need ... to increase their economic prosperity. And economic reconciliation means making sure that some of the economic projects in our province have revenues that are shared with First Nations," he said.

"It seems, to me, pretty obvious that environmental protection and stewardship of the land is something that most First Nations, certainly the Squamish, are very, very alive to. We're not only helping them with costs, but we're also helping them to a cleaner future, a clean energy future, which they have very much wanted to be part of their legacy for future generations.”

The other recent First Nations projects being funded include: 

* Osoyoos Indian Band: $50,000 to review a solar plant co-owned with FortisBC to address increased summer demand for electricity due to rising temperatures during the past several years.

* Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council:  $49,000 to review a proposed 49-hectare solar project on a mine site. 

* Peters First Nation: $50,000 to develop a plan to lower utility costs for members and stabilize access to telecommunication networks in emergencies, such as floods.

Learn more about the fund on the B.C. government's website.


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