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Water Today Title October 22, 2020

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Update 2018/2/19
First Nation Renewable Energy


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By Cori Marshall

The federal government has made their intentions known that it will support the development of clean, renewable energy in rural and remote communities. On Friday, February 16, 2018, Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr announced the rollout of the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities Program, and the government is now accepting proposals.

As reported on December 13, there is a desire and willingness in remote off-grid regions to move toward more sustainable energy solutions, the major hurdle to the transition away from diesel fuel has been a lack of funding. The new program will offer $$220 million in funding support to renewable energy projects.

Minister Carr told Water Today that reason the government has chosen now to make this commitment is "this is a problem that has been around a long time and is part of (the Liberal government's) clean growth strategy. The minister added that government would "invest, with the private sector, in renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuels."

The government believes that this investment will help "get a good start on creating cleaner environments," Minister Carr said. He added that "working with Indigenous communities and incenting the private sector will take us to a much better place than we are now."

As we have seen in some areas remote off-grid communities are provided energy from a provincial or territorial crown corporation such is the case in Nunavik in Northern Québec and Nunavut. In Northern Québec, the price of a litre of diesel is stable at $1.40, though in Nunavut it ranges from $0.98 to $1.36. In the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, where energy is provided by multiple providers, the price ranges from $0.37 to $1.23. The average price of diesel for the entire country is $1.27, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

When asked if all remote communities will be eligible for funding Minister Carr said "the communities that will be eligible are those being powered by diesel," only those communities not on the grid will be able to submit proposals. This program "is for communities where renewables would reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Carr said.

The monies that have been earmarked for this program were set aside in Budget 2017, and through the proposal process the Minister said that the government expects that "communities will provide good ideas that (they) could help fund."

More than 200 communities would be eligible for funding through this initiative, and Minister Carr said that "this is part of multi-billion dollar commitment on the part of the government of Canada." In order to achieve their clean energy goals the government "will provide $21.9 billion over 11 years to support green infrastructure, drive clean growth and combat climate change," according to a Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) news release.

The federal government is not walking into an environment where no progress has been made. Minister Carr explained that "there are private sector companies who are already very much engaged with Indigenous communities doing exactly this work, we are not starting from scratch there are best practices available." The government will be assessing project on a case by case basis and are "optimistic that results will be positive," Carr said.

The project is not focused solely on moving away from fossil fuels, there is also a component for capacity building in these communities. "We want there to be opportunities for socio-economic growth, we are hopeful that there will be jobs created because of community involvement, if solar or wind power will be used there will be construction, and presumably that will involve local people,"Carr said.

This is "a step down a long road, we are taking steps in a variety of different ways, and they all lead to the same objective which is create jobs with environmental stewardship in partnership with Indigenous communities," Carr underlined.

When asked if the $220 million that was rolled out, and combination of federal spending would be enough to help all off-grid communities transition away from diesel-powered generators the Minister responded there is "a significant amount on the table for investment, let's see what comes back, we will have a better idea in a couple of months."


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