Like other entrepreneurs, Aboriginal business owners are looking for their business to succeed. In the 2010 Aboriginal Business Survey, 6 in 10 reported their firms were profitable, and 7 in 10 anticipated revenue growth over the next two years. One potential opportunity for continued and increased success may lie in becoming a supplier to the electricity and renewables sector. The sector is projecting growth, profits and continued success, requiring a solid relationship with their suppliers.

A Thriving Sector

The generation, transmission and distribution of power features prominently in the Canadian economy, contributing over $28 billion to the country’s GDP in 2011. There are almost 700 establishments in Canada in these sectors, varying from large, government owned or regulated utilities to small start-up businesses, employing over 92,300 people.

Projections for the growth of Canada’s hydropower, in particular, range from a “business as usual” scenario of 24 hydropower projects over the next 20 years, to a “mid-scenario” of 114 projects, and to an “optimistic” scenario of 158 projects. The Conference Board of Canada has noted that the electricity and renewables sector can be expected to invest $293.8 billion from 2010 to 2030 to maintain existing assets and meet market growth. Expected investments are $195.7 billion in generation, $35.8 billion in transmission, and $62.3 billion in distribution. Clearly, the electricity sector will be making continued investments – which require partners and suppliers. It is imperative that Aboriginal businesses prepare themselves to participate and profit from these opportunities.

Decision makers within the industry concur, and cite specific opportunities that could be of great interest to Aboriginal firms. For example, one interviewee for this research suggested that there might be many future opportunities in the far north. Many communities still operate on diesel generators and are looking for a permanent power solution. Northern development in other resource industries such as mining, or oil and gas, can also be expected to drive power-related investments.

Many Procurement Opportunities

It is projected that over the next 20 years, almost $ 300 billion will be spent in the electricity and renewables sector across three specific divisions: Power Generation, Power Transmission, and Power Distribution. The range and complexity of procurement needs for this sector varies from small scale operational needs to large scale capital projects.

Major projects, in particular, often have related Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) with local communities. Aboriginal suppliers can help the utility company deliver on these commitments when the contracts provide local residents with valuable career opportunities and/or development, encourage education, provide royalties, or reduce the impact on environment and community overall. Agnico Eagle in Nunavut was noted as a successful example by an interviewee for this research. Many communities look for benefits that go beyond the X years of the project – e.g. community members gain skills and/or papers to be qualified to build their capacities for work on subsequent projects.

SaskPower on Aboriginal Recruitment:

SaskPower on working with Aboriginal businesses:

Manitoba Hydro on Aboriginal Procurement:

BC Hydro on Working with Aboriginals:

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