Renewable energy policy in the north
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This project will focus on the issues related to making new renewable electricity technologies (RETs) in remote communities in NunavutW a reality to decrease the territory's dependency on diesel fuel.
Canadians mostly think of development in an international context. They are aware of the large number of communities across the world that struggle to be self-sufficient and sustainable with regard to energy use. Ironically, while Canadians look outward, they overlook the vast number of northern communities in Canada that face similar challenges to those that they are familiar with internationally.
In Nunavut, one of the key challenges is the problem of energy self-sufficiency and diesel dependency. Presently, all twenty-five communities in Nunavut are dependent on the use of diesel for their energy needs, including electricity generation, heat generation, and transportation. Unfortunately, there are a number of environmental, social and economic problems associated with the use of diesel. Diesel is an emission-intensive and polluting energy source, contributing to lower health outcomes and environmental degradation. Moreover it is wasteful and expensive: there is a high cost to transport diesel and diesel generators are about 35% efficient. Additionally, the cost of diesel has been increasing over the past years, and is expected to continue to climb.
There has been recent growth in the field of renewable energy technologies (RETs) across Canada, including recent pilot projects in Nunavut and in other Northern regions. However, there has been no substantial push by the federal or territorial governments to integrate RETs into many Nunavut communities. As diesel becomes less reliable, it will be important to find alternative energy sources to reduce Nunavut’s dependency on diesel that can contribute to the territory’s social, economic and environmental viability. To do so, an interdisciplinary approach must be used, which combines science and engineering knowledge, social science research methods and the application of policy development.
 Project Description
Using this interdisciplinary approach, my research project will comprise of four stages. The first stage of the project will be to perform a literature review and technical feasibility assessment of various RETs in Nunavut communities. . Key alternative energy sources will naturally include solar power, wind power and hydroelectric power; however geothermal, waste-to-energy and tidal power may also be assessed. Using RETscreen, the functionality and feasibility of the RETs will be assessed for three Nunavut communities – Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Resolute.
The second stage will include interviews with key government policy-makers, NGOs and consultants. The goal of this stage is to perform a SWOT analysis and get a better understanding of the current thinking on this issue of RETs in Nunavut and the challenges and opportunities associated with their integration.
Appropriate technologies must also be responsive to environmental, cultural, economic, and educational resource constraints of any localized community. Accordingly, the third stage will involve interviewing Nunavummiut to discover their perspectives and degree of acceptability of RETs in their communities, It is essential to incorporate this community based research component in order to gain approval and buy-in from community members. To ensure a variety of perspectives, interviewees will be both Inuit and non-Inuit residents, have resided in small and large communities across Nunavut, and have lived in diverse social conditions.
The final stage of the project will be to develop recommended policy actions (based on an results of the feasibility study and interviews), which can be taken by federal and territorial governments to increase the uptake of RETs across Nunavut.
 Relevant Key Words
Nunavut, the youngest Canadian territory, has developed a complete dependence on diesel-generated electricity over the last 50 years, which has led to environmental and economic stress on the territory. However, renewable energy technologies (RETs) could provide substantial electricity to communities, thereby reducing the use of diesel fuel. This study explored the perspectives of government policy-makers, northern energy consultants, and NGOs in order to understand the current status of renewable energy policy and development in Nunavut. Challenges identified included capacity gaps within the communities and government, bureaucratic barriers, barriers to financing RET projects, technological uncertainty, and development and infrastructure challenges. Opportunities explored include future RET funding options, strong renewable resources, increased community engagement through partnerships, and increased education opportunities. Respondents also discussed anticipated short- and long-term actions of each department. We recommend the establishment of a clear point of contact within the federal government: a group that would oversee all renewable energy policy and development in Nunavut. The group would also assess the full economic life cycle of renewable electricity to compare its true cost to that of unsubsidized, diesel-generated electricity.
Source: Nicole C. McDonald & Joshua M. Pearce, “Renewable Energy Policies and Programs in Nunavut: Perspectives from the Federal and Territorial Governments”, Arctic 65(4), pp.465-475 (2012). open access
 Abstractself-sufficient, but also has negative impacts on their environment, health, and social well-being. The current practices waste 65% of the energy created and place a serious economic strain on the society by consuming 20% of the government’s annual budget. Although renewable energy technologies (RETs) could partially offset diesel use, there is a lack of sufficient information to mold appropriate policy. This investigation of community perspectives contributes to information needed to develop sustainable energy policies for Nunavut. Open-ended interviews with approximately 10 members from each of three communities were studied using logical analysis, pattern coding, and content analysis. The respondents’ greatest concerns about energy in Nunavut are the impacts of technology on the environment and the economy and the lack of government initiatives to explore RETs. In identifying these concerns, respondents expressed an overwhelming need to protect their land and wildlife, likely stemming from Nunavut’s dominant Inuit culture. Moreover, Nunavummiut generally supported wind and solar power in their community, but greatly opposed hydropower, though some of these views on hydropower might shift if better information were available to residents. Finally, respondents suggested a variety of community-accepted actions that could be used to increase RET expansion in Nunavut. These actions fit into four categories: policy development, economics, suitable RETs, and capacity and knowledge building.
Source: Nicole C. McDonald & Joshua M. Pearce, Community Voices: Perspectives on Renewable Energy in Nunavut, Arctic 66(1), pp. 94-104 (2013). open access
 List of Relevant Papers and Conference Abstracts
- McDonald, N.C., Pearce, J.M., Overcoming Barriers for Reduction of Diesel Dependency with Renewable Energy Technologies in Nunavut, ArcticNet 7th Annual Scientific Meeting, Ottawa, 14‐17 December 2010.
- Dirk V. P. McLaughlin, Nicole C. McDonald, Ha T. Nguyen and J.M. Pearce, Leveraging Photovoltaic Technology for Sustainable Development in Ontario's First Nations Communities,Journal of Sustainable Development 3(3), pp. 3‐13, 2010.
- Nicole C. McDonald, Ha T. Nguyen, and Joshua M. Pearce, “Technical Feasibility of Renewable Electricity Generation in Nunavut” in M.D. Tiwari, A. Vaish (Ed.),Green Energy, River Publishers: Alborg, Denmark, pp. 41-74 (2012). Available: Google Book preview
- Nicole C. McDonald & Joshua M. Pearce, “Renewable Energy Policies and Programs in Nunavut: Perspectives from the Federal and Territorial Governments”, Arctic 65(4), pp.465-475 (2012).
- Nicole C. McDonald & Joshua M. Pearce, Community Voices: Perspectives on Renewable Energy in Nunavut, Arctic 66(1), pp. 94-104 (2013).