Renewables in Remote Communities

READ MORE Series: Climate and energy policy advancements Series: Remote Communities Energy in Transition Publications More articles Canada's remote communities have relied heavily on diesel fuel f...

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:

Solar and windTechnical 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 capacityHuman capacity

Empowering local people with the skills, training, mentorship and networks necessary to champion projects


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 regimensPolicy regimes and regulatory environment

Proactive government climate and energy policies and a supporting regulatory environment that support Indigenous-led projects and stewardship (see the Indigenous Off-diesel Initiative)

Renewable in Remote Communities Conference 2022The 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.

Fair and inclusive rates


Find out about the FAIR (Fair and Inclusive Rates) campaign in support of fair pricing for Indigenous-led renewable energy:

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Series: Climate and energy policy advancements

Eliminating diesel in Canada’s remote communities

Electric vehicle charging station in the Yukon

How remote communities should be included in the push to electrify transportation Government funding and programming need to address the unique barriers remote communities face

Blog Aug. 30, 2022- By Madeleine Whitestone
The decarbonization of transportation systems is crucial to reducing diesel reliance and achieving Canada’s net-zero targets. In many northern and remote communities transportation-related emissions represented over half of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

Remote communities transitioning to clean energy need better housing Governments must prioritize energy efficiency to successfully reduce diesel dependency

Blog July 20, 2022- By Emily He
Over half of the total diesel consumed in remote, often northern, communities is associated with heating buildings and homes. For federal and provincial governments to meet their commitments to support Indigenous communities to get off diesel, they must take a quality housing first approach.


Three clean energy options that could help replace diesel Hydrogen, small modular reactors and energy generated by the ocean are all under consideration in remote communities

Blog March 23, 2022- By Katarina Savic, Dave Lovekin

In remote communities across Canada, low-carbon power sources such as hydrogen, nuclear, and energy generated by movement in the ocean are being studied more closely. Each of these clean energy technologies are options under consideration as remote Indigenous communities further their efforts to eliminate dependence on diesel power.

Cover of report; image shows wind turbine construction in the North

From diesel dependency to energy empowerment Six energy service models that could fast-track climate action in remote communities

Publication Feb. 9, 2022- By Emily He, Madeleine Whitestone

Systemic barriers continue to prevent clean energy projects from moving ahead in remote communities across Canada. This paper presents six Energy Service Models that offer options for clean energy proponents to develop, build, and operate projects by alleviating some of the challenges associated with lack of capacity and capital.

Solar installation in Northern Alberta

When business-as-usual is a barrier to clean energy In remote communities, utilities need to change to meet climate goals and consumer needs

Blog Sept. 13, 2021- By Emily He

The way utilities deliver energy to remote communities and generate revenue discourages the purchase of renewable energy as well as the implementation of energy efficiency measures. For Indigenous communities to realize a clean energy future this needs to change.

Cover of Reducing Emissions from Diesel Generators

Reducing emissions from diesel generators in remote communities How smart policy decisions can drive the transition to renewables

Publication July 28, 2021- By Emily He

As remote communities switch from diesel to renewables, smart policy changes can advance ways to reduce the carbon intensity of existing generators, lower emissions, and pave the way to a clean energy system. This issue paper reviews some options.

Grid-tied solar installation

Better government policies will unlock the cash remote Indigenous communities need for clean energy Innovative government funding policy and strategic private partnerships are essential to finance Indigenous-owned power generation

Blog May 4, 2021- By Marvin Quitoras

Indigenous communities that are transitioning from diesel energy face barriers in financing their clean energy infrastructure. But governments can create the policies and programs that will give Indigenous communities better access to the money they need, either by providing financing themselves or by fostering the conditions that promote private investment.

Solar energy system in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta

What’s a fair and equitable price for renewable energy in remote communities? The rate structure of power purchase agreements in remote communities needs radical transformation to advance renewable energy projects

Blog March 10, 2021- By Marvin Quitoras

A well-designed independent power producer policy with a fair and equitable power purchase agreement rate promotes the adoption of locally led renewable energy projects in remote communities. A fair and equitable energy price must capture the full costs of building and operating a diesel-based energy system within an accurate PPA rate structure for renewable-energy projects. As well, energy developers in remote communities must include community- and Indigenous-led electricity developers.

How to boost renewable energy integration in remote communities Energy policy needs to catch up as innovations allow for effective integration of renewables in microgrids

Blog Jan. 21, 2021- By Marvin Quitoras

The widespread adoption of renewable energy could displace the centralized system of generating and distributing energy to customers and provide opportunities to unlock a more decentralized (distributed) way of managing energy. But reducing reliance on diesel, and empowering communities to produce their own energy, depends upon the support of governments, utilities, communities and consumers for the shift from centralized microgrid systems to more distributed energy generation.

Rethinking energy policy in Canada’s remote communities Moving from the diesel of the past to a clean energy future

Blog Nov. 18, 2020- By Marvin Quitoras

Through policy work done under our Renewables in Remote Communities program and the Indigenous Off-diesel Initiative, we are advancing work in two overarching and eight specific policy areas to support energy projects being led by Indigenous champions involved in the IODI program.

Series: Remote Communities Energy in Transition

Tracking diesel reduction progress in remote communities Report shows current diesel use in remote communities, and outlines goals and future opportunities for diesel reduction

Blog July 8, 2020- By Dave Lovekin

In the past few years, important progress has been made toward reducing diesel dependency in remote communities. As a result of years of leadership and work within Indigenous communities to build capacity, impressively large renewable energy projects are coming on-line, and communities are leading their own energy transition. Increases in government funding programs that support diesel reduction projects have been important to recent progress.

How B.C. can be a leader in economic reconciliation B.C.’s Indigenous utility regulatory inquiry – what does it all mean?

Blog June 12, 2020- By Dave Lovekin, Saeed Kaddoura

Of the 300-plus distinct First Nations reserves in British Columbia, 27 are remote communities, and most of these rely heavily on diesel generators as their primary energy source. But rather than depending on shipments of diesel into their hard-to-reach communities, they could harness abundant local renewable energy resources such as sun, wind, water and biomass to create local energy solutions that contribute to economic independence while creating local jobs.

Solar panels installated at a remote Canadian community

Rebuilding Canada’s economy includes energy resiliency in remote communities Communities need a thoughtful economic rebuild that makes us more resilient

Blog May 19, 2020- By Dave Lovekin

This is the moment to create a roadmap for a society that is more resilient to these macro shocks – whether they are brought about by a pandemic or climate change. Canada’s response must support a more resilient, healthier economy that is competitive and shows economic strength in a decarbonized global market.

The future of the electric utility in Canada’s remote communities Regulatory and business model reforms could accelerate clean energy transition

Blog May 10, 2019- By Dylan Heerema

In Canada, both utilities and proponents of renewable electricity projects face many challenges when working together to transition remote communities to clean energy.

Remote communities meet renewable energy solutions Challenges and opportunities for hybrid microgrids

Blog Jan. 28, 2019- By Dave Lovekin, Dylan Heerema

There are many successful examples of renewable energy sources being integrated in remote communities to create hybrid microgrids — and the list continues to grow as projects demonstrate they reduce operating costs, carbon pollution, and reliance on imported diesel fuel.

The True Cost of Energy in Remote Communities Understanding diesel electricity generation terms and economics — 2nd edition

Publication March 6, 2019- By Dave Lovekin, Dylan Heerema

This backgrounder breaks down some common fuel cost terms that are important for conversations around transitioning remote communities away from diesel.

Diesel, renewables, and the future of Canada’s remote communities Introduction to microgrids

Blog Jan. 15, 2019- By Dave Lovekin, Dylan Heerema

Since remote communities are not connected to the North American electricity grid, they make use of their own small-scale microgrids.


Recommendations on the forthcoming IPP Policy To be presented to the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

Publication Oct. 19, 2022- By Chris Severson-Baker, Dave Lovekin
Meeting the future energy needs of Nunavut’s growing population while also tackling climate change and the decarbonization of Nunavut’s energy systems will require a well-designed Independent Power Producer (IPP) Policy. The forthcoming IPP policy must match the speed and scale needed for the low-carbon energy transition, reduce the barriers to market entry for Inuit organizations, and prioritize Inuit ownership on renewable energy projects.

Independent Power Producer policy in Nunavut Nunavut IODI champion and Pembina Institute feedback

Publication Oct. 31, 2022- By Alex Ittimangnaq, Dave Lovekin, Katarina Savic, Emily He
Delivery of the IPP policy in Nunavut has been slow, resulting in the delay of several renewable energy projects across the territory. The situation has created uncertainty for Inuit businesses, communities and developers who are ready to advance projects. This forthcoming policy must create clarity and certainty in addition to prioritizing Inuit-led projects.

briefing note cover

Recommendations on energy policy in the NWT Briefing note to the Government of NWT

Publication Oct. 31, 2022- By Richard Nerysoo, Chris Severson-Baker, Dave Lovekin, Emily He
This briefing note provides context and recommendations for climate and energy related reports that are anticipated to be discussed at the Fall Sitting of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories from October 13 to November 3, 2022. We hope that the Government of NWT will commit to supporting Indigenous-led clean energy systems and consider the following recommendations while developing policies and programs.

Renewables in Remote Communities 2022 Conference cover

Renewables in Remote Communities 2022 Conference Summary Report

Publication Aug. 29, 2022- By Madeleine Whitestone, Katarina Savic, Dave Lovekin and Emily He
A summary report of the Renewables in Remote Communities (RiRC) 2022 conference, which brought together Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants from across Canada, and focused on partnerships in clean energy projects; youth engagement; regulatory policies; access to capital; and pathways to successfully transition away from diesel dependency.

Cover for 'Case for investing in clean energy in remote communities;

The case for investing in clean energy in remote communities Recommendations on how to improve access to capital

Publication April 22, 2022- By Katarina Savic
Indigenous-owned clean energy projects in remote areas face chronic barriers to accessing private capital to help fund the development of renewable energy. In this report we summarize the key barriers facing renewable energy deployment in remote communities as they relate to accessing capital and recommend government policies, programs, and tools that could be used to attract market capital and improve the business case for renewables in remote areas.

Cover of Transforming the Utility Business Model

Transforming the Utility Business Model Options to improve services and opportunities for clean energy in remote communities

Publication April 8, 2022- By Emily He, Grace Brown, Dave Lovekin
Canada’s commitment to transitioning remote communities off diesel power is hampered by the way utilities operate in those areas. While the number of clean energy projects has increased, renewables are not being implemented at the speed and scale needed to meet climate commitments, while Indigenous energy proponents lack opportunities to implement projects. Our report presents alternative business models that can be adopted by utilities to support climate action and Indigenous-led clean energy.

Recommendations to the Government of Nunavut to accelerate clean energy projects Improving policies to meet energy needs and climate goals

Publication Feb. 10, 2022- By Dave Lovekin, Katarina Savic

Nunavut is almost entirely dependent on diesel power for meeting its electricity and heating needs and has the highest diesel dependency of all territories and provinces. Policies that regulate the terms and conditions, as well as the rates paid to power producers, can be significantly improved so that producers are incentivized to develop clean energy projects that are sustainable, profitable, and contribute to reducing reliance on diesel power.

Cover of First Nation leadershipin BC

First Nation leadership in British Columbia’s renewable energy future Finding a path forward

Publication Aug. 11, 2021- By Dave Lovekin, Colton Kasteel, Madeleine Whitestone

Supporting Indigenous leadership in B.C.’s renewable energy sector is critical to meeting B.C.’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2007 levels in 2030, and to advance reconciliation with Indigenous People.

Cover of Diesel Subsidies Simplified

Diesel Subsidies — Simplified, Part I In remote communities, subsidies mask the true cost of using diesel fuel and impede the transition to clean energy systems

Publication June 28, 2021- By Dave Lovekin

Subsidies for diesel fuel use in remote communities have kept prices artificially low, disincentivizing efforts to find efficiencies or alternative, renewable, energy sources. Diesel Subsidies Simplified Part I explains the critical role of subsidies as an obstacle to transitioning to clean energy systems, how subsidies work, and how financing can be redirected to open up opportunities for energy alternatives that lower emissions and improve social, environmental and health outcomes.

Recommendations on QEC CIPP policy application Joint briefing note to the Government of Nunavut

Publication Sept. 15, 2020- By Dave Lovekin, Marvin Quitoras, WWF-Canada, Nunavut Nukkiksautiit Corporation

This briefing note was submitted by WWF-Canada, Nunavut Nukkiksautiit Corporation and the Pembina Institute in response to QEC's Commercial Institutional Power Production policy proposal (May 2020). While we appreciate QEC’s effort to develop this CIPP policy, the policy as laid out will do little to encourage the adoption of renewable energy systems in Nunavut and therefore contribute little to put Nunavut on a path of transition away from diesel.

Cover of submission

Recommendations on QEC’s commercial institutional power production policy application Pembina Institute submission

Publication July 27, 2020- By Dave Lovekin, Marvin Quitoras

The Pembina Institute reviews the Qulliq Energy Corporation’s (QEC) commercial institutional power production (CIPP) application. Although it is encouraging to see this application, it is the Pembina Institute’s opinion that the proposed policy will do little to encourage renewable energy uptake for commercial and institutional customers in Nunavut. Several statements do not appear to meet the stated mandate of QEC to support renewable energy.


Diesel Reduction Progress in Remote Communities Research Summary

Publication July 6, 2020- By Dave Lovekin, Jeremy Moorhouse, Vincent Morales, Ben Salek

This report collects and quantifies cumulative national diesel reduction progress from 2015-2020, outlining the progress made so far, and the opportunities to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to reduce diesel use in Indigenous remote communities in Canada.

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

Publication July 9, 2019- By Dylan Heerema, Dave Lovekin

In this report, we conduct a cross-Canada scan to evaluate the current policy environment for community-led projects in each province and territory with remote Indigenous communities.

Comments on Qulliq Energy Corporation’s proposed IPP policy Pembina Institute submission on independent power producer program in Nunavut

Publication March 27, 2019- By Dave Lovekin, Dylan Heerema

A well-designed IPP policy in Nunavut would create valuable opportunities for Indigenous communities and project proponents in developing renewable energy projects.

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

Publication 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

Publication 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.

More articles

renewables in remote communitiesNWT Energy Action Plan lacking Indigenous focus

The GNWT's 2022 to 2025 Energy Action Plan should increase support for Indigenous led energy projects (Dec. 7, 2022)

renewables in remote communitiesUtilities in remote communities can support more clean energy safely and reliably

New study shows that the diesel-powered grids serving communities in the Northwest Territories can use 45 per cent more renewable energy (Jan. 26, 2022)

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

Blog 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

Blog 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

Blog 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

Blog 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

Blog 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

Blog 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.


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