Northern community power

It’s tough to live sustainably in Canada’s territories. For millennium people survived on local food before it was trendy- wild meat, fish and berries. Now most of us survive on what we find at the grocery store, which has often travelled a very long way to get to us. Often the only choice when we need to go south or to travel around is to fly, which has a huge carbon footprint. Some communities are dependent on diesel for electricity, which creates very high greenhouse gas emissions.

But some communities in the North are working to produce local energy and reduce their climate change impacts. It’s a slow trend but it’s growing.

  • In Yellowknife, the city is considering getting geothermal heat from an old mine shaft and distributing it all around the downtown core.
  • Fort Liard, NWT, is considering a deep geothermal energy project.
  • In Atlin in northern BC, a small-scale run-of-the-river hydro project has allowed the community to get off their diesel energy.
  • There are many examples of wind energy in Alaska and a potential project in Tuktoyaktuk.
  • There are numerous examples of switching to biomass heating, energy efficiency and energy conservation initiatives.
  • In Inuvik, NWT, the town hall and the community centre are powered by solar panels.

These initiatives require both community leadership and financial support. While in the long term many of these projects are money-savers, they often need (sometimes significant) start-up money. Unfortunately, the federal government fund that supported most of these initiatives has been discontinued as of this year. There is no evidence so far that any more money will appear in the next budget. While these are great first steps, communities need long-term support from other levels of government in order to fun their own.

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