How Canada’s northern territories are working to reduce reliance on diesel for power

YELLOWKNIFE — Many communities in the North are reliant on diesel for electricity. Here’s a look at how power is generated and transmitted in the territories and how they plan to move away from fossil fuels:

Nunavut 

The territory does not have emissions reduction targets but renewable energy projects are underway.

Emissions in 2020 were 603,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, an increase of three per cent since 2005.

Nunavut is unique in Canada, as it does not have a shared transmission grid. Instead, each of the territory’s 25 communities has its own power plant and they all rely on imported diesel. 

Quilliq Energy Corporation is owned by the Nunavut government and is responsible for power generation, transmission and distribution. It has a net metering program that allows residents and municipalities to receive energy credits for surplus renewable energy. It also recently started an independent power producer program.

The corporation installed solar panels at Iqaluit’s power plant in 2016 as part of a pilot project “with promising results.” It plans to construct a new hybrid solar-diesel power plant in Kugluktuk, which is expected to be completed late next year. 

Other projects being explored include the proposed Kivalliq Hydro-Fibre Link, which would connect Nunavut’s Kivalliq region to Manitoba’s fibre-optic and hydroelectric grid. 

Northwest Territories

The N.W.T. aims to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. 

Emissions in 2020 were 1.4 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, a decrease of 19 per cent since 2005. 

N.W.T. gets power from hydro, petroleum, natural gas and wind. Eight communities are served by two hydro grids with diesel back up, while 25 rely mainly on diesel.

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation is a Crown corporation that produces most of the territory’s electricity. It offers a net metering program and has installed solar arrays in Fort Simpson, Colville Lake, Fort Liard, Wrigley and Aklavik. 

Construction of a wind turbine in Inuvik, which has diesel and natural gas power plants, is expected to finish in 2023.

The territory’s most ambitious energy enterprise is the proposed Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion Project, expected to cost more than $1 billion. It would add capacity to the Taltson hydroelectric system and connect the territory’s two hydro grids. It aims to encourage mining in the eastern part of the territory and connect the N.W.T. grid to the southern electrical grid in the long term. While the project has received some criticism, the territorial government has said it is a priority in discussions with federal ministers.

Yukon

Yukon aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. 

Emissions in 2020 were 601,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, an increase of six per cent since 2005. 

Hydroelectricity accounts for the majority of power generation in Yukon, which is supported by diesel and natural gas during peak demand and hydro disruptions. Five communities are not connected to the main electricity grid and largely rely on imported diesel. 

Yukon Energy Corporation, which is publicly owned, is the primary generator and transmitter of electricity. ATCO Electric Yukon, a private company, also contributes to power generation. 

The territory implemented an independent power producer policy in 2019. 

Yukon offers incentives for residents and businesses to produce electricity from renewable sources and sell the surplus to the grid. It also provides funding for small-scale, community-led renewable energy projects. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 10, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

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