Nunavik village looks for cheaper energy
Small hydro dam may soon electrify Inukjuak
KUUJJUAQ – Within five years, a $67.5 million hydroelectric project in Inukjuak may be able to produce all the electricity needed to heat and power this growing Hudson Bay community of 1,150.
That's the plan promoted by the Pituvik Landholding Corp. of Inukjuak, which administers Inuit lands and money for the resident beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
If Inukjuak uses water power instead of dirty diesel fuel to generate electricity, the move will save money and reduce polluting emissions, representatives from Pituvik told councillors at the recent meeting of the Kativik Regional Government's council in Kuujjuaq.
Just dumping oil-burning furnaces in favour of electric baseboards will save millions of dollars and stop the release of many tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, said Pituvik's vice-president Michael Kasudluak and secretary Tommy Palliser.
The two came to the KRG council looking for support and money to help pay for the project's $2.7 million feasibility study.
Called Innavik after the Inuktitut word that means "a pouch in which one would keep a stone flint and moss to start a fire," the project will see the construction of a small dam across the Inukjuak River, about 10.3 km from the community.
This dam will house turbines to catch the river's powerful flow and turn it into energy.
Unlike much larger dams in northern Quebec, Innavik's dam would never completely stop the flow of the river.
The same company that built the La Grande-2 dam, Groupe RSW, would build Innavik, but its generating capacity would be 7.5 MW. That's a fraction of LG-2's production of 5328 MW, yet still more than enough to power Inukjuak.
After Pituvik started looking at building alternative energy sources for Inukjuak, the hydroelectric project grew in size, tripling from its earlier proposed size of 2 MW.
Pituvik dropped an earlier plan to build a wind generator farm outside Inukjuak due to the difficulties of connecting its energy production to the main system.
Hydro Quebec, Quebec's power corporation, which has been supportive of Innavik, has said it wants to pursue projects like Inukjuak's to lower the cost of power delivery to Nunavik, where it's too expensive to link the region to the province's main power grid.
Electricity in Nunavik is sold at the same rate as in the South, but costs Hydro Quebec 10 times more to produce, due to the high cost of transporting diesel fuel.
Last spring, beneficiaries in Inukjuak considered the results of the pre-feasibility study for Innavik and approved plans to move ahead with a feasibility study and environmental assessment.
Pituvik has now sent its feasibility study plan to Hydro Quebec and to both the provincial and federal governments. It's also filed a project application with the Quebec department of natural resources.
This summer, the feasibility study will look at soil, water flows and engineering requirements as well as environmental impacts and economic benefits of the project.
Next fall, Pituvik plans to work on a bankable feasibility study, which will evaluate how the project will be financed and how much money it can make.
The partners will need to find $12 million in equity and finance the rest of the $67.5 million project.
Equity for the Innavik project is likely to come from Pituvik, Makivik Corp., joint-venturing and federal government funds.
When in production, the electricity from the Innavik project will be sold back to Hydro Quebec.
For the moment, Pituvik is looking for money from governments and the KRG to help pay $1.47 million of the total $2.7 million cost for the feasibility study.
Next March, when all the studies are complete, beneficiaries will have the final word on whether to continue with the project.
"If they don't accept it, we will drop the project," Kasudluak assured the councilors, some of whom expressed concerns about its environmental impacts.
Promoters say benefits include employment during Innavik's planning, construction and operations.
Earlier studies showed finished project can return the partners' investment at a rate of about 30 per cent a year – so Innavik is expected be able to pay for itself over time.
Any surplus money could then be used to pay for social and economic development projects, Pituvik says.
For updates on Innavik, go to http://www.pituvik.com.