Federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal visited Baker Lake. (Photo by Dan Vandal via Canada's National Observer)

In Baker Lake, Canada’s Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal announced that Ottawa would invest approximately $4.1 million into solar energy projects across five Nunavut communities.

“Inuit communities, which are experiencing some of the harshest impacts of climate change, know how best to address the challenges they face,” Vandal said. “We’re proud to support these projects led by the North, for the North.”

The funding comes from the Northern REACHE program, whose goal is to support Indigenous communities as they transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Funds will be divided across the five communities as follows:

  • Arctic Bay – $780,000
  • Clyde River – $766,700
  • Pond Inlet – $1,000,000
  • Whale Cove – $754,592
  • Grise Fiord – $807,000

The initiative aims to significantly reduce reliance on diesel to generate electricity in Northern communities. What’s more, the initiative is expected to create ample job opportunities and generate revenue for the five communities.

Some supported communities, like Pond Inlet, the municipality of Clyde River and the hamlets of Whale Cove and Grise Fiord, have already announced their aim to install solar panels within the next three years.

The proposed solar projects include a 120-kilowatt system in Clyde River and a 100-kilowatt system in Grise Fiord, located 1,500 kilometres north of Iqaluit. Meanwhile, Whale Cove and Arctic Bay hamlets plan to position their rooftop solar arrays on community hockey arenas.

This solar initiative comes at a good time.

According to federal estimates, the five project sites generate energy by burning close to 180 000 litres of diesel a year. This solar initiative will offset approximately 453 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

What do the 453 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions being offset equate to?

It’s about the same as the greenhouse gas emitted from 99 cars in a year.

Relying on diesel not only negatively impacts the environment, it’s also rapidly climbing in cost. The price of diesel to heat a home soared to $2.30 per litre in many Nunavut communities last year.

Over 200 remote communities across Canada still rely on emissions-heavy diesel as a primary source of power. It’s not sustainable for the environment or the economies of northern communities.

Meeka Kiguktak, Mayor of Grise Fiord, said her hamlet is “extremely pleased” for her community to be included in the initiative. “The community, as the northernmost fully inhabited population in North America, is keen to take advantage of energy savings and reduced emissions that will create a revenue stream and a sustainable economic future,” Kiguktak said.

Jerry Natanine, Clyde River’s senior administrative officer, spoke about how the funds will help fund the installation of solar panels that will run the arena and community hall.

“Federal support for Clyde River’s installation of solar panels means we will be reducing diesel fuel use, easing tensions on the utility’s engines, reducing carbon emissions, and reducing the cost of energy for the municipality,” Natanine said.

“This funding is extremely great news for the people of Clyde River, Nunavut, and we appreciate the federal government for supporting small communities.”

Sofia Martimianakis
Sofia is a writer who has public sector and renewable energy industry experience. She holds an HBA from the University of Toronto and an MA in English Literature from the University of Waterloo.

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