Indigenous groups buying stake in new transmission line through northern Alberta

CALGARY — Canadian Utilities Ltd. says seven Indigenous communities have accepted its invitation to take a 40 per cent interest in a power transmission line between Edmonton and Fort McMurray in northern Alberta.

The Calgary-based utility company and its partner Quanta Services Inc. announced in June they had signed a deal to sell Alberta PowerLine for about $300 million and the assumption of $1.4 billion of debt to a consortium including TD Greystone Asset Management.

As part of the sale, Indigenous communities along the transmission line route were given the chance to buy up to a 40 per cent combined equity interest, with the final ownership mix based on acceptance.

The Indigenous communities that are investing in the line are the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Bigstone Cree Nation, Gunn Metis Local 55, Mikisew Cree First Nation (by way of the Mikisew Group of Companies), Paul First Nation, Sawridge First Nation and Sucker Creek First Nation.

Canadian Utilities and Quanta won a bid to build the 508-kilometre transmission line in 2014 that began operation in March. Canadian Utilities will remain as the operator of the line over its 35-year contract with the province’s Alberta Electric System Operator.

The agreement is the latest move by Indigenous communities to take energy infrastructure equity. In 2017, the Mikisew Cree and Fort McKay First Nations closed a deal to buy a 49 per cent interest in an oilsands tank farm near Fort McMurray for $503 million from Suncor Energy Inc.

“Throughout the project, we developed an exceptional relationship with the teams at Quanta and implemented a comprehensive Indigenous contracting strategy totalling $85 million, which allowed us to complete this state-of-the-art project ahead of schedule and on budget,” said Siegfried Kiefer, Canadian Utilities CEO.

“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.”

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