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Renewable Energy Inventory

A Renewable North

This inventory outlines how the territories are leading by example through a range of renewable energy investments. The previous sections describe some of the unique challenges and opportunities facing each territory. We also face common challenges that require collaborative solutions and actions. This section describes some of those collaborative ideas. As Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon move forward together, renewable energy provides tremendous potential to create a more prosperous and sustainable North.

Cost of Energy

Heating and electricity costs vary across the territories but are typically many times more expensive than in southern Canada, due in part to the small and widely dispersed market of consumers in the territories relative to the rest of the country. For example, while electricity rates are around nine to ten cents per kilowatt-hour in Toronto, they can be as high as two dollars per kilowatt-hour in some northern communities.

High and rising energy costs from fossil fuels create considerable long-term incentives to expand the economic case for renewable energy sources in each territory. Targeted planning and preparation will be required to take advantage of the unique opportunities to develop renewable energy sources as they become economically viable across the territories.

Renewable Energy Technologies

The small market size of territorial jurisdictions also presents a challenge for the development of technology that is suited to sub-Arctic and Arctic conditions of the North, and discourages local businesses from servicing new technologies. Particularly in remote communities, capacity and human resource challenges are common. All of this increases the construction, operation, and maintenance costs of energy projects, decreasing the economic viability for renewable energy projects in the North. In recent years, however, some promising entrepreneurs have begun to emerge.

Policy changes to encourage an increased supply of renewable energy, such as net metering and independent power producer agreements, are becoming important considerations for grid-connected wind, photovoltaic, and geothermal electricity. Work has already begun on the development of such policies in Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.

We jointly recognize the importance of supporting studies and pilot projects in our jurisdictions to determine the effectiveness and feasibility of various renewable energy technologies and locations. These studies and pilot projects provide critical knowledge and experience as well as public education and skills development. The rapid technological improvements now taking place mean that using renewable energy for heat and electricity in the sub-Arctic and Arctic will become more reliable and less expensive in the future. Some of these improvements include control systems and smart grid technology to better integrate renewable energy into conventional systems. Further research and experience will improve the understanding of the economic potential of renewable energy sources and how they can be integrated into existing energy systems. It is critical for the territorial governments to share this information and learn from one another as we move towards a renewable North.

Financing

Partnerships between territorial governments, Aboriginal governments and organizations and private/public financers are vital for developing expensive renewable energy projects. This becomes more critical as the cost of any given renewable energy project increases.

Electrical Grid Connectivity

Long distances between communities as well as mining, oil and gas activities create segregated electrical networks in Northern Canada. In Yukon, the majority of communities are connected to the grid. The Northwest Territories has two partially integrated grids and a number of isolated communities and mines. In Nunavut there is no interconnection between communities. All three territories are isolated from other North American grids.

Future growth in both domestic and international energy demand will provide a market to sell renewable power generated in the territories. In order to capitalize on such opportunities, improvements in transmission and transportation capacity are needed. Given the potential of renewable energy in the territories, energy exports could create a vibrant and sustainable new northern economy. Investment from the public and private sector in energy infrastructure will be essential to expand opportunities.

Currently, the most favourable opportunity for an electrical grid connection to southern Canada is a transmission line from a hydro development in northern Manitoba to small communities in the Kivalliq area and possibly mine developments around Baker Lake. Alternatively, there is significant potential for small and large hydro development in the central-interior Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions and coastal areas of the Kivalliq region. It is estimated that there are 56 potential sites with a generating capacity of 3,600MW. This energy could support mining activity in the area or be exported south through Manitoba. The Qulliq Energy Corporation is also examining the potential for an electrical grid upgrade in Iqaluit from 6 kV to 25 kV, which would significantly reduce electrical loss in Nunavut’s largest centre and capital city.

In Yukon, all communities except five are connected to the electrical grid. In 2008, Yukon Energy’s cost estimate of a 1,303 km, 240 kV transmission line capable of carrying approximately 150 MW of power from Whitehorse to Terrace, BC was roughly $1 billion. BC Hydro has since begun work to extend the British Columbia electrical grid as far as Bob Quinn Lake. This shorter distance would reduce the cost of connection by 15-20 per cent.

There are two large electrical grids in the Northwest Territories which are supplied by Snare/Bluefish Hydro facilities and Taltson Hydrofacilities. Several communities around Great Slave Lake are connected to these electrical grids. In the long term, connecting these two grids will reduce reliance on diesel generators utilized for back-up generation. This grid connection could be facilitated by expanding the Taltson hydro system to supply power to resource development in the NWT’s Slave Geological Province. The existing Taltson system could be expanded by 50 to 60 megawatts, with relatively limited impact. The Northwest Territories Hydro Corporation and Aboriginal partners have proposed to move forward on this expansion to serve existing diamond mines in the region, filing a Developer’s Assessment Report with regulators in March 2009. The regulatory process is currently paused while the proponents consider changes to the business case supporting the project.

In the long term, the economic and environmental costs of fossil fuel use are expected to continue to rise. It is not difficult to envision a future in which the territories produce power for export to southern markets. This development could secure a clean energy future for the North and provide an economic base for future generations.

 
Photos courtesy of Patrick Kane/Up Here, Dianne Villesèche/www.ravenink.ca and ArcticNet. © 2016 A Northern Vision