George Colgate provides consulting on energy access issues to several isolated First Nation communities in British Columbia.
After a career as a mechanical engineer, George spent a number of years as manager of Xeni Gwet’in Enterprise, a subsidiary of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government. He founded the Enterprise in 1994 as a body that would help manage the First Nations’ infrastructure assets, construct new assets, provide economic development opportunities and develop renewable energy resources. “People would like to get away from diesel and be as energy self-sufficient as possible,” he says.
Unfortunately, he adds, there is no shortage of roadblocks. George has lived off-grid since 1970, and currently maintains his own off-grid residence with electrical energy produced from photovoltaic panels. Much of the Xeni Gwet’in community is in a similar position, but providing everyone with access to electricity has been a 15 year process - and it’s not quite finished yet. “People are very excited, and more so as we seem to be getting fairly close to this, but it shouldn’t take this long in this day and age.”
The delays are not about a lack of will on anyone’s part, George reckons. They are down to a succession of “benign hurdles”, such as over-complicated funding application procedures. Many agencies that are ready and eager to provide funds issue forms that could be simplified, he suggests - and shared between agencies so that communities don’t have to fill out multiple different applications. He is looking forward to other Summit participants’ experience and solutions to such issues. “I suspect British Columbia is not the only place where this kind of thing happens,” he says.