Law Firms Facilitate Aboriginal Green Energy Projects

The renewable energy sector is providing green jobs to many Canadian lawyers busily working on contractual issues, regulations, and financing that derive from the growing industry.  Many solar and wind firms already in the final stages of initial projects are looking to solidify their positions as leaders in the marketplace.  John Goetz of business & litigation law firm, Fraser Milner Casgrain says, “[Our] second project will involve bank financing, aboriginal, and environmental issues.”  This will be of interest to the members of the First Nations Energy Alliance (FNEA), a group working towards renewable energy development and the preservation of rural areas in order to protect the interests of future aboriginal generations and the creation of green jobs for their communities.

Aboriginal Interest in Green Energy

Lake Huron Regional Chief and Serpent River Chief, Isadore Day, believes, “The Green Energy Act and the required expansion of Ontario’s transmission network present significant opportunities for First Nations.”  Similarly, the FNEA supports the development of renewable projects that would enable aboriginal communities to work collaboratively, while still retaining their independence to pursue their own energy projects.  The FNEA are interested in power generation projects using wind, solar, biomass, and hydro sources.  Green job creation and community-focused training opportunities could prove invaluable in a region beset by high unemployment and limited educational outlets.

Green Energy Act and Aboriginal Community

Aboriginal projects that meet the local content and investment requirements of the Green Energy Act’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) program will qualify for a “rate adder” fee.  This incentive offers a higher rate for energy generated by aboriginal communities and delivered to Ontario’s power grid.  The amount to be added will be determined based on a sliding scale that is dependent on the level of economic participation.

Aboriginal groups stand to receive between 0.6 cents/kWh to 1.5 cents/kWh for the power they provide.  This is slightly more than the amount that is paid to other community groups participating in the Green Energy Act’s Community Energy Partnership Program (CEPP).  These groups are paid between 0.4 cents/kWh to 1.0 cents/kWh for the energy they generate.

Legal Support for Rural Projects

There are over 400 green energy companies in Canada that potentially require legal assistance for their ongoing and future projects.  This has created an environment conducive to entrepreneurial behaviour among law firms.  Anne-Marie Sheahan, head of McCarthy Tetrault’s national environmental group says, “We want to be partners to clean tech clients whose funding doesn’t allow for a full legal spend.”  Some firms are looking to smaller, less obvious projects, such as those that rural aboriginal communities hope to develop.  Sheahan adds, “That means taking some risk in the sense of identifying penalties or rewards depending on the outcome, instead of simply charging an hourly rate.”

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