While the past year has certainly been filled with challenges, it’s also seen some successes for the environment. So, let’s appreciate how far we’ve come and celebrate recent renewable energy wins in Nunavut. Because there’s a lot.
Energy education is really important, so I want to highlight two major capacity-building initiatives that have been helping to grow knowledge about green energy in Nunavut: the 20/20 Catalyst program and the Arctic Renewables Society.
For the past few years, WWF-Canada has sponsored Nunavummiut to participate in Catalyst, a program designed to provide Indigenous participants across Canada with the tools they need to lead clean-energy projects in their home communities.
This tied in with the federal government’s Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative which provided funding for four Nunavut hamlets to do Community Energy Planning. I was able to visit Kugaaruk this past summer, where Alex Ittimangnaq is leading this work, and we held a socially distanced solar energy information afternoon, collected energy data in the community, and discussed ways we could help make housing more energy efficient.
The Arctic Renewables Society formed in 2019 to help Nunavummiut participate in the emerging green economy. Last year, the society delivered its first two training programs: Home Energy Advisor training, which was online due to COVID-19, and Solar Installation training, held in person in Iqaluit with pandemic precautions in place.
It was a successful launch, with participants from every region on Nunavut taking part, and the Society is looking forward to more programs in 2021 as well as delivering Home Energy Audits with our newly minted Energy Advisors.
Throughout 2020, the only renewable energy policy in Nunavut was the Net Metering program offered by Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC), the territory’s only power utility, which allows electricity generated by renewable installations to feed into the grid and reduce energy bills.
Even though the program limits projects to 10 kilowatts in size — and to individual homeowners and one hamlet project — a number of new projects were completed, including the first two private homes in Nunavut.
The Hamlet of Kugaaruk was also successful in getting a legacy solar project in the community brought up to code and connected under this Net Metering program. The Hamlet of Gjoa Haven also received the bi-directional meter on the solar panel system they’d installed in 2019 and are now fully operating under the program as well.
It’s only March, but 2021 is already shaping up to be a very exciting year thanks to some crucial new energy policies. Back in the summer, I highlighted a few installations not yet connected to the grid because they don’t meet the requirements of the Net Metering program, such as the solar arrays on the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) in Cambridge Bay and on Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit.
Now the recently announced Commercial-Institutional Power Producers (CIPP) program will finally give these projects a pathway to connect to the grid. Planned projects in Arviat, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake, and perhaps even more can now move forward with more certainty.
The policy isn’t perfect, and there are still disagreements over what price QEC should offer to pay for green electricity, but this is a major step in the right direction and should definitely be celebrated as a major win for the territory.
Another recent announcement from the Government of Nunavut introduced financial support for home net-metering projects as well as solar for cabin installations. People are already reaching out to see how they can access the program and start moving forward with their own clean energy projects, reduce their energy costs, and cut down their diesel consumption.
All this news is so heartening, and I am so excited to see what the rest of this year brings! I know a lot of people across the territory have been working on bringing these policies to life for a long time now, so it’s wonderful to see their hard work coming to fruition. It’s been a true team effort from the GN Climate Change Secretariat and other partner departments, QEC, Hamlets, MLAs, societies, and all the Nunavummiut who have been involved in these projects.
What an exciting time to be working on renewable energy in Nunavut!