Renewables in Remote Communities

Solar installation in Sachs Harbour, NWT.

Canada’s remote communities have relied heavily on diesel fuel for decades as a reliable source of energy for heating, electricity generation and transportation. The majority of remote communities have significant diesel generation and electricity transmission infrastructure, but many of these diesel system are based on old technology and past end-of-life. Diesel consumption has harmful environmental, economic, health and societal impacts that can no longer be ignored. This is particularly true as clean energy alternatives to diesel become more viable in these communities.

Most remote communities in Canada are home to Indigenous peoples, and we believe that the transition to clean, community-owned energy systems can support self-governance goals of Indigenous government and communities, support the broader efforts of decolonization, and improve relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. Advancing the clean energy transition in remote Indigenous communities must rest on a strong foundation of:

  • technical advancements – advancing proven and robust technologies so they properly function and can be maintained in the difficult climate and harsh conditions of remote communities
  • human capacity – empowering local people with the skills, training, mentorship and networks necessary to champion projects
  • economics – better economics and viable business cases that draw private investment into clean energy projects, shifting the focus away from government funding and complicated financial subsidies
  • policy regimes and regulatory environment – proactive government climate and energy policies and a supporting regulatory environment that support Indigenous-led projects and stewardship

The Pembina Institute has worked for over 25 years with rural, remote, and Indigenous communities to promote the adoption of clean and renewable energy and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. Our Renewables in Remote Communities conferences have brought together Indigenous leaders, industry, utilities, academia, environmental non-profit organizations, and representatives from federal, provincial and territorial governments for a dialogue on renewable energy development in these communities.

Recent blogs

Indigenous clean energy shift must be built on trust and respect Improving relationships key to ending diesel dependence in remote communities

Dec. 12, 2018 - By Dave Lovekin, Dylan Heerema

Our research indicates that a meaningful effort and focus is needed to improve relationships and create new opportunities between utilities and Indigenous power proponents.

Reflections on the 2017 Renewables in Remote Communities conference Increasing the Human and Financial Capacity of Renewable Energy Systems in Remote Indigenous Communities

Dec. 18, 2017 - By Dave Lovekin, Aletta Leitch

It's is an exciting time for renewable energy development possibilities in Canada’s north.

Reconciliation and Budget 2017: unlocking support for Indigenous communities’ transition to clean energy Last week’s federal budget provides solid direction for Indigenous communities to lead their own clean energy transition

March 30, 2017 - By Dave Lovekin

Budget 2016, the first budget tabled by the Trudeau government, committed $8.4 billion over five years in new funding to Indigenous communities across Canada. This represented a significant increase from previous government commitments.

Unlocking clean energy opportunities for Indigenous communities Federal funding will help communities develop renewable energy projects and transition off diesel

Feb. 24, 2017 - By Dave Lovekin

Despite progress made in recent years in Canada’s move toward cleaner energy production, many remote Indigenous communities still rely on dirty and expensive diesel fuel for their energy needs. Of Canada’s 292 remote Indigenous communities, 257 of these rely entirely on their own micro-generation networks for electricity.

Ottawa moves to support clean tech in Indigenous communities

March 3, 2016 - By Dave Lovekin

Ottawa has announced that it will provide welcome financial support to help ramp up clean energy capacity in Indigenous communities in B.C.

Innovation and resiliency on the microgrid Upcoming Renewables in Remote Microgrids Conference will showcase how northern communities are adapting and benefiting from clean energy

July 30, 2015 - By Dave Lovekin, Barend Dronkers

Renewable energy technology can reduce the use of diesel fuel in remote communities. Wind, solar, micro-hydro, geothermal and biomass are substantially cleaner and reliable forms of power generation.


Renewable Energy Partnerships and Project Economics Research supporting Indigenous–utility partnerships and power purchase agreements

Oct. 25, 2018 - By Eryn Fitzgerald, Dave Lovekin

This report examines strategies for enhancing collaboration and partnership between Indigenous power proponents and utilities and territorial / federal governments.

Renewables in Remote Communities 2017 Conference Proceedings

July 16, 2018 - By Dave Lovekin

This report discusses how Indigenous leaders, government representatives, business, experts and the nonprofit sector shared insights into how to advance diesel reductions in remote communities.


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