by Alison Tedford
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is true for the experience of Barkley Project Group when developing energy projects with First Nations after meeting at ABM. After having attended five ABMs so far, Yuho Okada, VP Project Development and Business Development of Barkley Project Group has found that ABM is the first step in developing a lasting relationship with a community. When asked how ABM fits into the work the company does, he had this to say:
“We are just completing a 4 megawatt hydro power project on Vancouver Island that, from inception to completion, was over ten years in the making. We are talking about a large investment over a very long period. It takes ten years to get to completion, but the project will be in operation for 40 years. Overall, we’re talking about half a century. The 20 minutes we get during ABM is a very, very small step in the grand scheme of things, but for us it’s a significant one because it gives us the opportunity to meet the community stakeholders. Usually, people that come to ABM are looking for business opportunities, understand the market risks and the benefits to be derived from those risks. And so they truly understand what we’re talking about. Because it’s 20 minutes, we try to focus our conversation on how can we develop this relationship into a 50-year project for the future.”
Barkley Project Group is described by their president and founder, Iain Cuthbert, as “clean energy consultants”. They have brought to fruition a number of highly praised energy projects with First Nations communities, creating cash flow and jobs. They prioritize community ownership, or at least majority community ownership. They also help communities develop community energy plans.
Community energy plans fit within a community’s existing land use plan, strategic plan, comprehensive community plan or economic development plan. The community energy plan is one piece of the puzzle in helping a community to prioritize projects that will help them save money while identifying the most strategic places to invest their funds to reach their goals through sustainable energy production.
As part of the planning exercise, sustainability opportunities on a commercial scale are identified as well as community level energy efficiency opportunities. The goal is in part trying to achieve cost offsetting benefits to homeowners, band offices, or community owned homes through energy efficiency. These can include things as simple as swapping light bulbs, or using better insulation.
When 50-year projects are on the table, a great deal of trust is required and Barkley Project Group has found that the opportunity to meet face to face provides an opportunity to start the process, introduce ideas and open lines of communication for future follow up and, down the road, a visit to the community if an invitation is extended. “It’s a small, but very important step for us,” Okada explains. Given that ABM attracts a lot of communities, Barkley Group have found it to be important to attend and that the meetings with pre-qualified decision makers are much more productive than cold calling.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and a 50-year project can start with a single meeting between a community and a clean energy consultant across the table at an ABM event. It can also bring prosperity, clean energy, employment opportunities and a lasting relationship. That’s why after five events, Barkley Project group sees attending ABM as so important.