Indigenous communities are leading the transition to renewable energy in the North - Business News

Indigenous communities are leading the transition to renewable energy in the North – Business News

An energy-focused think tank says Indigenous energy sovereignty in Canada’s North is “absolutely essential and fundamental” to tackling climate change, but more support is needed.

The Pembina Institute criticizes the Northwest Territories’ latest plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying meaningful engagement and partnerships with Indigenous peoples should be a higher priority.

Earlier this month, the territory released a second three-year action plan under its 2030 Energy Strategy, detailing initiatives it says will cut emissions by 51 kilotonnes by 2025, just below a previous target of 57 kilotons. The plan includes grants and incentives to save energy in buildings, support for electric vehicle charging stations and major infrastructure projects.

“We were just hoping to see a much more detailed outreach plan and strategy to really engage all Indigenous communities on how they want and can be involved in supporting the Northwest Territories and driving their own reductions. energy,” said Dave Lovekin, director of the Pembina Institute. for renewable energy in remote communities.

“Indigenous people have kind of been around since time immemorial and they know what their communities need,” he said.

The Ministry of Land Infrastructure said in a statement that community engagement, participation and empowerment are at the heart of the energy strategy, and it sought feedback from governments and Indigenous organizations on the plan. of action. He added that the Government of the Northwest Territories “provides significant financial and technical support” to communities for energy planning.

The territory plans to review the strategy in 2023.

While the Northwest Territories aims to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, Yukon plans to reduce emissions by up to 45% below 2010 levels by then and achieve net zero by 2050. Nunavut does not have specific emission reduction targets, but has several renewable and energy-efficient projects underway.

Although the North accounts for only a small percentage of Canada’s total emissions, many communities still rely on diesel fuel for electricity. The region is also warming two to four times faster than the global average.

Indigenous governments and organizations are leading the way in transitioning to renewable energy sources in the North, Lovekin said, thanks in part to federal funding.

Indigenous-owned projects that are already reducing diesel emissions include the use of solar power in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, and Old Crow, Yukon.

But many communities still face hurdles to switch from diesel, ranging from technical to bureaucratic.

“I think the biggest challenge that requires ongoing, systemic support is simply building Indigenous energy champions,” Lovekin said. “Really nurturing that relationship and really supporting Indigenous communities in building capacity.”

In Lutsel K’e, Northwest Territories, a solar project began in 2016. Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation said at the time that it was the first community in the territories to generate its own electricity , signing a power purchase agreement with the Northwest Territories. Power Corporation.

Denesoline Corporation, the financial arm of the First Nation, has been working to develop a hybrid wind and solar power plant in the community to further reduce reliance on diesel.

However, its chief executive said, following a study by the British Columbia Institute of Technology, that it is unclear whether the project will work and that it is too risky financially. Ron Barlas said he is currently investigating other options.

“The importance of the transition to diesel to reduce the carbon footprint on the environment is self-evident and has been our own independent focus…consistent with Indigenous communities controlling their own production,” Barlas said in a statement. .

“The challenge remains the lack of availability of economically and technically viable clean power plants or hybrid renewable energy systems and solutions.”

Another challenge in the Northwest Territories is that there is a 20% cap on renewable power generation in diesel-dependent communities to prevent system instability and limit revenue loss for service. audience. A May 2021 report found that as of July 2020, nine communities had reached or exceeded this limit.

In Sanikiluaq, Nvt., the Nunavut Nukkiksautit Corporation, an Inuit-owned renewable energy developer, plans to install wind turbines to replace half of the community’s annual diesel consumption for electricity. Heather Shilton, director of the company, said one of the biggest hurdles was negotiating a power purchase agreement with the utility, a crucial step before construction begins.

Qulliq Energy Corporation, which is owned by the Government of Nunavut, received tentative approval to implement an independent power generation policy in late September, but slow progress has delayed several renewable energy projects.

“Without this IPP program in place, we were kind of stuck,” Shilton said. “We submitted our application as soon as that ministerial approval came out, but we still don’t know exactly when we might see that power purchase agreement.”

Other Indigenous-led renewable energy initiatives are underway, including solar projects in Invuik and Deline in the Northwest Territories, and Beaver Creek, Yukon, and a wind energy project in Burwash Landing. , Yukon.

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