Renewable energy could cut costs for Nunavut

Trade show panellists push wind and solar energy


Trevor Bell of the Memorial University project SmartICE says that in Nunavut climate change is a daily reality. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Trevor Bell of the Memorial University project SmartICE says that in Nunavut climate change is a daily reality. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Nunavut’s Baffin region is seeing faster rates of climate change than most areas in the Arctic, especially in the fall and winter.

That’s what ArcticNet researcher Trevor Bell told attendees at a four-part panel presentation on climate change and the importance of clean energy that took place at Iqaluit’s Arctic Winter Games Arena during the Nunavut Trade Show on Sept. 20.

“This region is currently experiencing some of the most rapid climate change in the Arctic,” Bell said.

Changes are more noticeable around coastal “hot spots” said Bell, who used Hudson Strait and Foxe Basin as examples. He called changes in snow and ice cover likely to be “unprecedented” in “many millennia.”

“It’s already happening here, you are already adapting to it,” he said.

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Now researchers and developers are focusing on how to make their climate studies tie in with real-life situations where northerners need support, he said, for issues like food security, sustainable hunting and travel on the land.

The goal of the hour-long trade show panel was to highlight clean and energy-efficient technologies that can help reduce the effects of climate change on northern environments.

Martha Lenio of the World Wildlife Fund’s Iqaluit office spoke about renewable energy projects that the environmental lobby group has underway in partnership with residents in Gjoa Haven and Rankin Inlet.

The community of Gjoa Haven is hoping to start up an energy co-op, to help people take advantage of government energy programs that could lead to dollar savings for communities, like the Qulliq Energy Corp’s net metering project.

Lenio shared a study by the WWF that looks into the costs of diesel fuel used in Nunavut. That research found that over $60 million is spent on diesel subsidies in Nunavut every year, and the Government of Nunavut’s housing corporation pays most of that bill.

She said the WWF is pro-development, but wants to see change happen in an environmentally respectful way. And because technologies for renewable energy are advancing, using sustainable energy sources can be economically viable, Lenio said.

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Brett Faravo, a conservation scientist with Memorial University, shared a cost-saving idea involving wind energy that he and a team of researchers won a national award for this spring. The group looked at replacing diesel generators in Nunavut communities by pairing wind farms with battery storage centres that gather and save the energy for use when it isn’t windy.

A video on that project quotes Faravo as saying that Nunavut electricity rates are as much as 10 times the Canadian average, because the territory relies completely on fossil fuels. The team calculated that in Iqaluit operation and maintenance costs for a wind farm would level out at around two to three million dollars, whereas diesel operations in Iqaluit are on average around $30.4 million annually. This latter amount could increase, should federal carbon prices kick in, he said.

In Iqaluit, developing hydroelectric energy could be one solution, according to Sheldon Nimchuk of the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation.

The Inuit corporation is working on ways to make renewable energy economically viable in the Baffin region. These efforts will be seen in the construction of the new Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Centre on Federal Road.

As QC builds that centre, developers are looking at how to install infrastructure that will be useful for a future municipal subdivison. The company’s newest subsidiary, Nunavut Nukkiksautiit Corporation, is working on ways to make clean energy a priority in this development.

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