Arctic Energy Alliance’s budget is getting a $9.12-million boost over the next four years.This means more subsidies and programs to get NWT residents using less, or at least greener, energy.
The federal government is providing three quarters of the new funding, which was announced late last month, with the GNWT picking up the rest. The Arctic Energy Alliance is a government-funded not-for-profit society tasked with delivering energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy programs and services to residents, businesses and communities.
While the details of how the new money will be spent are still being hammered out, AEA executive director Mark Heyck said existing programs will be enhanced and expanded and new ones, like a service aimed at reducing energy costs for low-income individuals and families, will be introduced.
“We know that energy costs are much higher in Northern Canada than they are in the south and for people who have low incomes, it’s that much more challenging to meet those higher energy costs, but also to make the investments to help make their homes more energy efficient,” said Heyck.
Part of the new program will provide winterization kits to qualifying Northerners that include education and training on how to air seal homes, seal windows for the winter and switch to LED light bulbs. Heyck said these small things can make a huge difference.
“A few years ago, AEA was running an LED swap-out program where I believe it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 led bulbs were purchased, distributed and installed in place of older incandescent bulbs across the territory,” said Heyck. “That was the equivalent of basically taking one small community in the Northwest Territories off diesel altogether.”
Another upcoming program is called the Deep Home Energy Retrofit program, which will help with larger upgrades like insulation, windows and building envelopes.
Community Woodstove Project
An existing program that will see expansion is the Community Woodstove Project, run in partnership with community governments, each paying half the costs. AEA staff help co-ordinate the ordering, transportation and installation of wood stoves in homes.
Heyck said last year the program was used in Whati, Wekweeti, Deline and Behchoko.
“It’s not only about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the cost of energy, but it had some really positive economic spin offs for smaller communities as well,” said Heyck.
The main thrust of the funding is to help the NWT meet its 2030 Energy Strategy goals of increasing energy efficiency in buildings – residential, commercial and government – by 15 per cent, increasing the share of renewable energy used for space heating in the territory to 40 per cent and ultimately reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation in diesel communities by 25 per cent by 2030.
The Northwest Territories Power Corp. is also looking to reduce its emissions with large-scale community energy programs, including the upcoming wind farm in Inuvik and other projects that are yet to be announced, said NTPC spokesperson Doug Prendergast.
A recently-completed project, replacing Colville Lake’s old diesel power generation system with a hybrid solar-diesel system, is bearing out some successful metrics.
In 2017, approximately 15 per cent of the community’s electricity demand was provided by the solar array, replacing 25,500 litres of diesel.
“The hybrid system in Colville Lake is unique and it’s complex,” said Prendergast.
“As we’ve said right from the beginning, it’s going to take us some time to optimize the operational performance and to ensure that the maximum benefit to the community is achieved.”
Prendergast said that due to the cost of technology right now, large projects like these aren’t economically feasible unless subsidized.
The GNWT announcement of new funding also stated that AEA is being directed to no longer fund renewable energy projects in hydro-connected communities to allow more resources to get diesel communities using greener energy.
NTPC also has a “net metering” program for residents that have alternative energy sources, such as a solar array, allowing them to pump their excess energy back into the grid and get credits for future energy bills. Prendergast said there are 28 residents in 13 communities currently registered for the program.