More investment needed to advance diesel reduction in remote communitiesNew Pembina Institute report tracks progress on reducing diesel use in remote communities

July 6, 2020

OTTAWA — While comparatively good progress has been made toward reducing diesel use in remote communities in the past five years, considerable work is required to meet the federal government’s goal of eliminating diesel-powered electricity and heat in remote communities, many of which are Indigenous, according to the Pembina Institute’s new report, Diesel Reduction Progress in Remote Communities

This research captures the first national collection and quantification of renewable energy systems in remote communities over the past several decades, with detailed attention on 2015-2020. Currently, remote communities are overwhelmingly reliant on diesel fuel for heating and electricity generation. Not only is shipping in diesel fuel incredibly costly, diesel fuel use creates environmental and health issues for these communities. There is growing momentum toward transitioning to locally sourced renewable energy, which can contribute to economic independence while creating local jobs in remote communities.

The report finds there has been an increase in the number of community energy systems integrating renewable energy technologies, connected to provincial grids, and a decrease in energy demand due to select energy efficiency efforts. However, much more work is needed to meet the federal government’s 2030 goal of eliminating diesel-powered electricity generation in remote communities, and to eliminate diesel use for heat as the country works toward the larger goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Achieving the clean energy transition requires wide collaboration; Indigenous community leaders can leverage economic opportunities on the path to energy security. 


“It’s remarkable to see that in just the past five years, remote communities in Canada have managed to reduce diesel use by over 12 million litres — that’s almost five Olympic swimming pools’ worth of diesel — by switching to renewable energy sources, connecting to available provincial grids, and adopting energy efficiency measures. These communities are proving that clean energy and energy efficiency can reduce diesel dependency in their homes and throughout their communities, while bringing a host of other benefits. This progress is important and can be built on as we ramp up efforts to eliminate diesel-based energy reliance. The opportunities for remote communities are immense.”

Dave Lovekin, director, renewables in remote communities, Pembina Institute

“We applaud the ambitious commitment from the federal government to support the transition of remote Indigenous communities from reliance on diesel-fuelled power to clean, renewable and reliable energy by 2030. We look forward to working with the Government of Canada to translate this commitment into programs and policies that will catalyze strong and co-ordinated support from provincial, territorial and regional governments, utilities, regulators, and industry toward removing barriers to clean energy projects in remote communities. And we are committed to supporting Indigenous leaders and their communities as they determine what the clean energy transition will look like for them.” 

Linda Coady, executive director, Pembina Institute

“Helping remote communities to build clean and affordable energy systems by 2030 is central to our fight against climate change and our work to grow a greener economy. Our continued partnership with Indigenous communities and leading energy policy organizations, like the Pembina Institute will help reach this ambitious goal.” 

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources

“The impacts of climate change are being felt across Canada, and Indigenous and northern communities are among the most impacted. Northerners are seeing the effects, first-hand, in the permafrost thawing, eroding shorelines, and record high temperatures, threatening homes, highways and other vital infrastructure. The report by the Pembina Institute reinforces that action on climate change is needed now. By providing communities with clean, safe and reliable energy, we are reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and lowering our emissions. We know, this important work will only be achieved through ongoing collaboration directly with territorial, Indigenous, and community partners. By addressing the impacts of climate change in the North, and across Canada, we will help to build resilient communities.”

The Honourable Daniel Vandal, M.P., P.C., Minister of Northern Affairs Canada

Quick facts

  • Over the last five years, through energy efficiency measures, renewable heat and electricity, and grid connections, remote communities saw a combined total diesel reduction of over 12 million litres per year.

  • In 2020, diesel use in remote communities is estimated at 682 million litres per year; two-thirds for heat and one-third for electricity

  • From 2015-2020, renewable energy projects nearly doubled across remote communities compared to the last 40 years.

  • By 2020, remote communities had installed more than 11 times as much solar capacity as they had in place in 2015 


Visit to download a copy of Diesel Reduction Progress in Remote Communities.


Kelly O’Connor
Associate communications director, Pembina Institute


Report: Power Shift in Remote Indigenous Communities: A cross-Canada scan of diesel reduction and clean energy policies

Blog: Rebuilding Canada’s economy includes energy resiliency in remote communities

Blog: How B.C. can be a leader in economic reconciliation



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