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INAC PROGRAM TO FUND RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS IN CANADA'S NORTH
By Ronan O'Doherty
If you were to take your finger and run it up the western edge of a map of Canada, the last community you would touch would be Old Crow Settlement.
Located north of the Arctic Circle, Old Crow is the only community within the Yukon not accessible by road. Everyone and everything that comes in and out must be travel by plane.
This includes the diesel fuel needed to run the generators that power the settlement.
The Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity program, also known as Northern REACHE was created for such communities in Yukon as well as Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut, to help curb their reliance on diesel for heating and electricity.
The project, funded by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), has budgeted $10.7 million over two years to implement renewable energy projects in off-grid Indigenous and northern communities.
A media representative from INAC confirmed that this year they are currently supporting various stages of 22 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
Chief Bruce Charlie of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation who reside in Old Crow hadn't yet heard of the program, so this reporter sent him some details via email.
Chief Charlie was quick to respond, making it known that the project was tailor made for a community such as his.
"Right now, the diesel generator owners are ATCO electric and they're flying in the diesel by plane from a nearby community. First they fly to Fort McPherson and then from there to here," he said. "We do four trips a year and this fuel costs almost a million dollars a trip."
For a community of under 300 people, that's a fair chunk of change. A chance to lessen that burden, while also contributing to a more environmentally friendly/ sustainable energy source, is something that the community would avidly embrace.
"We developed a solar energy project for the community and now have solar panels on two of our buildings," Chief Charlie said. He went on to say that they were a pilot project for a larger scale initiative the community is hoping to push.
According to the INAC website, there is no deadline to apply for the program and all applications are being reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The program can be contacted by email at NorthernREACHE@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca or by phone via the Public Enquiries Contact Centre at 1-800-567-9604.