Indigenous communities to share 40% equity in Alberta Powerline

ATCO and Canadian Utilities Limited (CU) announced September 23 that seven Indigenous communities have entered into definitive agreements to purchase a combined 40 per cent equity ownership in Alberta PowerLine (APL). This investment will enable the communities to become direct owners and participants in Alberta’s energy sector.

          The Indigenous communities that are investing in APL are Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Bigstone Cree Nation, Gunn Métis Local 55, Mikisew Cree First Nation (by way of its business arm, the Mikisew Group of Companies), Paul First Nation, Sawridge First Nation and Sucker Creek First Nation.

          APL, a partnership between Canadian Utilities Limited (80 per cent) and Quanta Services Inc. (20 per cent), was selected in 2014 by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) to design, build, own and operate the Fort McMurray West 500-kV Transmission Project. In June 2019, CU and Quanta Services Inc. entered into definitive agreements for the sale of 100 per cent of their interest in APL through a competitive process for proceeds of approximately $300 million and the assumption of $1.4 billion of debt.

          As part of these agreements, CU offered an opportunity for Indigenous communities along the transmission line route to obtain up to a 40 per cent equity interest in APL. These purchase option agreements are complete and the full 40 per cent Indigenous equity ownership of APL has been determined. The remaining 60 per cent of APL will be owned by a consortium including Greystone Managed Investments d/b/a TD Greystone Asset Management, as manager for and on behalf of the Greystone Infrastructure Fund (Global Master) L.P., and IST3 Investment Foundation acting in respect and on behalf of its investment group IST3 Infrastruktur Global.

          The 508-km transmission line, running from Wabamun, Alberta, just west of Edmonton, to Fort McMurray, is the longest 500-kV AC transmission line in Canada and was ranked among the top 50 infrastructure projects in Canada. The project was financed in part through the largest public-private partnership bond in Canadian history and has been recognized for creating a new standard of excellence in public-private partnership projects.

          The line was energized in March 2019, ahead of schedule, on-budget and with an “impeccable” safety record, the proponents report. CU will remain as the operator of APL over its 35-year contract with the AESO and will continue to partner with Indigenous communities to establish maintenance and operational contracts, creating opportunities for skills training and local economic development.

          “Building respectful and mutually beneficial partnerships has long defined how we do business and was foundational to the success of Alberta PowerLine,” said Siegfried Kiefer, President & Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Utilities. “Throughout the project, we developed an exceptional relationship with the teams at Quanta and implemented a comprehensive Indigenous contracting strategy totaling $85 million, which allowed us to complete this state-of-the-art project ahead of schedule and on-budget. Now, we are pleased to provide Indigenous communities with the opportunity to make a long-term investment in critical energy infrastructure that will provide them a stable source of income for years to come.”

          The sale is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, subject to receipt of regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions. RBC Capital Markets is acting as financial advisor to CU and Quanta Services Inc.

          "Alberta PowerLine is a true Canadian success story, and an example for the world of how industry and Indigenous communities can work together to develop world-class energy infrastructure that benefits all constituents,” said Nancy Southern, Chair & Chief Executive Officer, ATCO. “We are very proud of the collaborative spirit which, over several years of planning, allowed us to complete the project without an Indigenous or NGO objection. We are also deeply appreciative of the cooperation and commitment from all of the Indigenous communities along the line, whose centuries-old culture, histories, and knowledge helped us in shaping the route.”


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