I began writing this editorial in the dark on my phone as we experienced the third power outage in less than two weeks here in Inuvik.
Once again, our fossil fuel based power grid let us down. And it seems to be doing so with greater frequency.
Regardless of where you stand in the ongoing debate about whether the human species should continue with technology proven both effective and dangerous or try prevent its own extinction, you have to admit that at this point, these regular, random power outages are getting ridiculous.
There is no shortage of creative ways to fix Inuvik and the Beaufort Delta’s economic and energy woes. A few ideas — like using the TUK M18 well to supply the region with LNG instead of driving it up from the south, or harnessing the region’s wind resources — are in the works. Other good ideas include turning Inuvik into a hub for Cold Weather testing, suggested by Coun. Tony Devlin, and a manufacturing mecca of recycled materials.
Some of the more creative proposals I’ve heard about are further out there — including two suggestions we build a nuclear reactor up here, and promoting the idea of shipping LNG to Asia through the Beaufort Sea. There’s also the recently released statement from IRC president Duane Smith condemning the federal government’s extension of the moratorium on oil and gas development — as if there’s even a remote chance the oil industry would be interested in another Alaskan Arctic Wildlife Refuge-level public relations disaster.
To get a sense of what trying to drill for oil in the Beaufort Delta would look like, look to Alaska’s experience. The Trump administration had to ignore the U.S. government’s own rules just to get exploration permits. And literally every company was shamed into not pursuing them. Now, the only company searching for oil in the AAWR is the government’s development bank.
If we’re going to entertain these highly polluting ideas like nuclear and more fossil fuels, can we at least explore the costs and benefits of building a hydroelectric dam?
We are surrounded by water steadily descending into the Arctic ocean. There are so many lakes in the area it would take a lifetime to see them all.
Hydro has a bad rap largely because of dictatorship governments like China and pre-democratic Brazil ignoring Indigenous rights and heritage and building dams wherever they please. But this is Canada and we could do this fairly and ensure everyone is involved.
Surely with the combination of the region’s highly developed Geography and Biology sciences expertise, traditional knowledge of waterways, animal life cycles and important sites, guidance of Elders and satellite technology, we could settle on a safe place for a hydroelectric dam somewhere on the Mackenzie Delta. Both the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and Gwich’in Tribal Council could and should have ownership in the project, helping to ensure both the power generated and the jobs created stay in the region.
South Korea has taken hydro a step further by covering the reservoir with floating solar panels, creating a double power source.
NNSL has previously reported that Yukon has the lowest power rates in the North, owing largely to their wealth of hydro power. Imagine what all that freed up capital in power bills could do in the Delta.