News Release

Vancouver Island First Nation celebrates new BC Hydro service

Port Alberni – A First Nations community on central Vancouver Island now has more reliable power thanks to the connection of a new diesel/battery hybrid generating station and distribution system.

The Uchucklesaht Tribe’s community of Elhlateese – accessible only by floatplane or an hour-long boat trip from Port Alberni along the Alberni inlet – underwent upgrades as part of BC Hydro’s Remote Community Electrification Program.

The community’s new electrical system went live on May 31. Over the weekend, a community celebration was held with an opportunity for residents to tour the new hybrid generation system.

Elhlateese was formerly served solely by an old diesel generator and a single distribution line, owned by the Uchucklesaht Tribe. Citing cost, reliability, safety and convenience, the Uchucklesaht Tribe decided to transfer ownership of the electrical system to BC Hydro in 2010.

The new system has two 100 kilowatt diesel generators and a battery bank that allow the generators to run more efficiently and be turned off during low loads to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and noise.

With the support of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), work was done to upgrade the distribution system, rebuild the road to the new generating station site and upgrade the wiring for each house in the community.


Chief Charlie Cootes, Chief Councillor of the Uchucklesaht Tribe:
“The Uchucklesaht Tribe Government is extremely pleased to finally have a reliable power base to rely on to provide the stability for any future economic development projects. With the reliable power source within the village the list of possible projects becomes endless.”

The Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development:
"Our government continues to invest in infrastructure initiatives that will help lead to healthier, more self-sufficient Aboriginal communities. A better electricity system will not only help to reduce the First Nation's energy costs, it will also help to power economic development opportunities. We are proud to partner with the Uchucklesaht Tribe and BC Hydro on this important project and I congratulate them on its successful completion.”

Hon. Rich Coleman, Minister of Energy and Mines:
“The development of the new diesel hybrid generating system at Elhlateese provides a great example of cooperation among many parties, including the Uchucklesaht Tribe, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Canada, manufacturer Energy Alternatives Ltd. and BC Hydro. Congratulations to the Uchucklesaht Tribe and the village of Elhlateese on its new electricity system.”

Greg Reimer, Executive Vice President, Transmission and Distribution, BC Hydro:
“BC Hydro is pleased to cooperate with the Uchucklesaht Tribe to modernize its electrical system at Elhlateese. By providing the community with a state-of-the-art and reliable source of electricity, it is our hope that the village will be able to explore new economic opportunities.”

• BC Hydro worked cooperatively with the Uchucklesaht Tribe to provide the community of Elhlateese with some innovative firsts in remote electrification. These include:
o The first containerized diesel-battery hybrid generating station owned by BC Hydro;
o The first prime power station for a community that is unmanned and remotely controlled and monitored via satellite link;
o The first Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone installation over satellite;
o Among the first remote communities to receive smart meters with data transmitted through the station’s satellite link. The data transfer component is to be implemented in the near future.

• The new hybrid generating system was designed and built by EA Energy Alternatives Ltd., a Victoria-based company which specializes in alternative energy supply.

• BC Hydro and AANDC are also working with the Uchucklesaht Tribe to assess the possibility of a micro-hydro generation project that could be developed by the First Nation in the future.

About Uchucklesaht (U-chuck-le-sat) Tribe
The Uchucklesaht Tribe has two Treaty Settlement Lands, Cowishil and Elhlateese, situated approximately 24 miles down the Barkley Sound, southwest from Port Alberni. The Uchucklesaht Tribe is a member of the Maa-nulth Treaty Society. When the Maa-nulth Treaty took effect on April 1, 2011, it brought certainty to the First Nations’ rights to use, own and manage lands and resources throughout its claimed traditional territory.

The Government of Canada’s investments in community infrastructure for First Nations help to stimulate economic growth and improve the quality of life on reserves. AANDC contributed more than $1.6 million towards the generation station, new distribution line and house wiring upgrades at the Uchuckleshaht First Nation community. This project is a part of a $12 million commitment being made by the Department to support projects to improve community electricity systems at the communities of Uchucklesaht, Hartley Bay, Tsay Keh Dene and Kwadacha. The contribution for this project was also made under the Government’s Strategic Partnership Initiative (SPI), a key element of the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development. SPI will increase economic development opportunities for Aboriginal entrepreneurs and communities by promoting partnerships between federal and non-federal partners in priority sectors of the economy, including forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture.

About BC Hydro
Fifty years ago, British Columbians turned to BC Hydro to build the clean electricity system they count on to power B.C.'s economy, create jobs in every region, and keep the lights on. Now, BC Hydro is building again for the next 50 years. B.C. continues to grow and so has the need for more electricity. That’s why BC Hydro is building and renewing electricity infrastructure, and encouraging conservation to meet today’s needs and those of future generations.

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For more information, please contact:

BC Hydro Media Relations
Direct: 604 928 6468

Chief Charlie Cootes
Uchucklesaht Tribe Government