Push to end energy poverty in indigenous communities underway – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – November 24, 2016)


For remote indigenous communities across Canada, the lack of clean, reliable energy is a major contributor to the grinding poverty that is a part of everyday life.

Some 200 communities in the country are not connected to an electricity grid and must rely on diesel generators for their power. They experience blackouts, fuel spills and a shortage of capacity that frustrates growth and development plans. While subsidized, the diesel is expensive – especially when warm winters melt ice roads and limit the ability of communities to truck in their fuel supply.

Governments at various levels are now working with indigenous leaders and energy companies to find new solutions to end that energy poverty. Federal, provincial and territorial ministers are due to meet in January with the various partners to come up with a joint plan to clear away institutional barriers to projects that would provide reliable electricity.

Despite the challenges, many projects are proceeding – ranging from a $1-billion transmission project in Northwestern Ontario, to microgrids fuelled by diesel-and-solar hybrid systems in British Columbia, to an indigenous-supported hydroelectric project in Quebec. Communities in the Far North are looking to wind and solar – even geothermal – to complement their existing diesel systems.

As it has been across the world, electrification is considered a necessary – though far from sufficient – tool for improving lives of people living in remote, poor communities.

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