Power to the People: How Tlingit Nation harnesses hydropower, geothermal energy

Before the hydropower project, 3,300 litres of diesel fuel were burned each day in Taku River Tlingit Nation and Atlin, B.C.

Like many remote Indigenous communities, the Taku River Tlingit Nation in northern British Columbia used to rely on diesel for powering the community — an expensive energy source that is highly polluting to the environment and human health.

Today, a run-of-the-river hydropower project generates five gigawatts of power annually and meets all the energy needs of Taku River Tlingit Nation as well as the neighbouring town of Atlin. The diesel plant that previously powered both communities used to consume a staggering 3,300 litres of fuel each day.

A welcome sign for Atlin, a town located in northern B.C. (Power to the People)

A welcome sign for Atlin, a town located in northern B.C. (Power to the People)

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a leading climate change activist in Canada and the host of Power to the People, visited Taku River Tlingit Nation to learn about how this community phased out diesel and transitioned to run-of-the-river hydropower.

K’eduka Jack of Taku River Tlingit is working to revitalize Indigenous law in her community’s governance system and energy independence is an important part of the process.

“It can be very, very difficult to look at your lifetime and think that you'll never truly understand what your ancestors felt, what they were talking about. The clean energy projects that we have happening in the nation are focused on coming back from that trauma,” said Jack.

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Laboucan-Massimo visiting the run-of-the-river hydropower project. (Power to the People)

The success of the hydropower project inspired the community to develop more renewable energy systems. A geothermal lake loop system was installed in Atlin Lake and is used to both heat and cool hundreds of homes throughout the seasons.

Laboucan-Massimo also visited Tsleil Waututh Nation, located in North Vancouver, to discuss what energy independence means to their community and their opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Watch the video above to learn more about these renewable energy accomplishments.

Thumbnail image: Atlin, British Columbia. (Power to the People)