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Conservation group questions GN renewable energy ambitions

Fossil fuels are costing the Government of Nunavut more than $60 million per year in subsidies, according to conservation group WWF Canada, and there is no "hard evidence" that the GN is serious about renewable energy.

The Iqaluit power plant runs on diesel generators. Qulliq Energy Corporation once had hopes for a $356-million hydroelectric project near Nunavut's capital, but it's not feasible at this time, according to the president and CEO of Qulliq Energy Corporation.
photo courtesy of Qulliq Energy Corporation

"I would say the proof, we're still waiting on it," said Iqaluit resident Paul Crowley, vice-president Arctic with WWF Canada, which produced a new report on Nunavut's fossil fuel use last week.

Crowley acknowledged that dramatic change in energy policy takes time and he credited Qulliq Energy Corporation for devising a net metering program last summer, but he noted that the GN has yet to formally adopt the initiative.

Net metering would let residential customers and a single municipal corporation customer in each community that produce excess renewable energy – using solar panels, etc. – to receive credits for future energy use based on the quantity of energy they feed into the local grid, up to 10 kW.

Crowley said he's hopeful the new legislative assembly will quickly review QEC's monopoly as a utility because there's not enough federal funding to permit the GN to move away from diesel in a meaningful way.

"Ensuring that there is the possibility of power-purchase agreements, and that private money can be brought into the grids in communities with private projects to produce electricity that is then distributed is really, really important," Crowley said. "Locking into diesel for another 30 years is just not an option."

The best renewable energy strategies in Nunavut vary depending on the community, but scientific and engineering advances have shown wind and solar are viable options in Alaska and Russia, Crowley said.

"The technology is not the issue anymore. It's how to deploy it, how to finance it," he said.

The amount QEC pays for diesel fuel has fallen since 2014, but that's a reflection of the drop in diesel prices globally, stated Bruno Pereira, QEC's president and CEO. It's expected the installation of new energy efficient generators will reduce the diesel fuel required to power the territory in 2019 by approximately one million litres, or two per cent, Pereira noted.

QEC is also exploring options such as geothermal energy and variable-speed generators to reduce the use of diesel fuel, which the World Health Organization says is a factor in climate change. Health Canada notes that studies have found diesel emissions to be cancer-causing in humans.

At one point, the GN was pursuing a hydroelectric alternative to provide most of Iqaluit's energy needs. The price was deemed too high to make the project a reality.

"Our goal at QEC is to deliver reliable energy to all of Nunavut," QEC president and CEO Bruno Pereira told Nunavut News last year. "We're spending significant money on rebuilding aged power plants. They are past their expected useful lives. They are critical for the communities. Because of the nature of their reliability and making sure our customers have reliable power, we must rebuild those. We can't do anything else other than that."

About the Author: Derek Neary

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