Wind Farm Refinancing Helps First Nation Deliver Community Benefits

For Matt Jamieson, “Indigenous participation in the clean energy economy provides a platform to invest in a brighter future, to stimulate economic opportunity, and build critical capacity to bring about change for Indigenous peoples.”

Jamieson is Chief Executive Officer of the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation (SNGRDC). The SNGRDC was set up to foster economic development opportunities on and around Six Nations’ territory, which is located between Hamilton, Brantford, and Simcoe, Ontario.

Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB) recently partnered with SNGRDC to refinance one project in their growing clean energy portfolio, the Niagara Region Wind Farm. With 77 turbines, it’s the second-largest wind farm in Ontario, yet it’s just one of 18 solar and wind installations that SNGRDC participates in that send nearly 1,400 megawatts of clean electricity to the provincial grid.

Niagara Region Wind Farm

Since 2016, the SNGRDC has reinvested over $14 million in surplus profits, inclusive of wind farm revenues, into critical infrastructure and grassroots projects by way of a community investment trust, the Six Nations of the Grand River Economic Development Trust (EDT).

The SNGRDC was always meant to be an “economic engine” for Six Nations, said Jamieson. So far, with the profits from SNGRDC, the EDT has been able to invest in fire truck purchases, waterline extensions, mental health programs, community living programs, family assault support services, an elders’ home redevelopment, suicide prevention programs, and more.

“In the past century, everything was built around us with little consultation, collaboration, or inclusion,” Jamieson noted. “Throughout this time, Indigenous people were alienated, and their principles and values were dismissed.”

But now, “through Indigenous participation, we have an opportunity to embrace our collective responsibility to do what’s right for our future generations,” he added. “Participating in clean energy provides a platform to invest in a brighter future, to stimulate economic opportunity, and build critical capacity to bring exponential change for Haudenosaunee people and our neighbours.”

Clean Energy Delivers

It’s no coincidence, Jamieson noted, that the “rights and interests of our people are very closely aligned with the clean energy economy.”

Managing large clean energy operations with the intent of directing profits back into the community, SNGRDC sought a financing partner that understood and supported its mission. Earlier this year, VCIB partnered with SNGRDC to arrange a $32.5 million loan, refinancing one part of the development corporation’s 50% ownership stake in the project at a more favourable rate.

This refinancing agreement expanded SNGRDC’s profile as a clean energy leader and, Jamieson added, savings from the lower interest rate “will flow to the bottom line, handing more funds to the EDT and directly benefiting the community.”

Choosing VCIB to refinance the project was as simple as choosing the best lending terms through a competitive process, Jamieson said, while partnering with a financial institution that “demonstrates a strong desire to embrace Indigenous business.”

Supporting Indigenous Business

Partnering to find mutually beneficial solutions has proven to be a successful strategy. In this case, a $23 million loan guarantee from the Province of Ontario’s Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program “enabled VCIB to provide a larger loan on advantageous terms, which will position SNGRDC to direct more funds back to the community.

“Building critical infrastructure, including energy infrastructure, is part of our plan to drive Ontario’s economic recovery and prosperity,” said Ontario Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy. “I am pleased that the Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program has supported this refinancing transaction that will further economic development opportunities for the Six Nations community.”

VCIB uses the tools of finance to drive social and environmental change, and we believe public-private financing partnerships can play a role in advancing community economic development. In addition, “supporting Indigenous economic development is a pillar of VCIB’s values-driven approach,” noted Vince Gasparro, VCIB’s Managing Director of Corporate Development & Clean Energy Finance. “We’re pleased to partner with SNGRDC and the Province of Ontario to find a creative financing solution that benefits the Six Nations community and advances Canada’s net-zero transition.”

This article was written by VCIB and the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation.

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