Opinion | Big government money flowing to “renewable” energy projects in the Arctic

By Deidra Garyk. Deidra is an independent energy advocate who writes articles and open letters that are published on EnergyNow.ca and are widely shared on social media.

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  • The cost of renewables is getting cheaper and cheaper every day.
  • The cost of renewables is less expensive than fossil fuel sources of energy.
  • Clean energy projects create good-paying jobs.
  • We can replace fossil fuel sources of energy with renewables.”

These are all statements that politicians, ENGOs, and climate activists have been telling us for years.

The ENGOs and activist organizations have been transparent and vocal about their desire to phase out fossil fuel use in Canada as soon as possible and replace it with renewables, namely wind and solar, and the Arctic is no exception. They have been successful at lobbying the federal government to implement public policy that favours renewables, and in turn, they’ve been able to secure government funding to subsidize projects.

Through the Northern REACHE Program (Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity), the Government of Canada has been providing millions of dollars to fund renewable and energy efficiency projects since 2016. “The program objective is to reduce Northern communities’ reliance on diesel for heating and electricity by increasing the use of local renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.”

 There’s big money involved in this program. In 2017, $53.5 million over ten years was budgeted starting in 2018-2019.

Much of the funding is going to install solar arrays, replace heating oil with biomass or wood stoves, and retrofit buildings in the Territories. Some hydro and wind projects also received funding, although to a lesser extent. Project details and grants awarded are provided on the Government of Canada’s website.

List of 2019-2020 projects: https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1594043443205/1594740323463

List of 2018-2019 projects: https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1557164055766/1594748851586

Some of the projects include:

$242,000 for the Makkovik Arena Solar Photovoltaic Project for “funding for the design and installation of a 56kW solar photovoltaic system on the Makkovik community arena.”

$500,000 for the Kluane Wind Farm for “funding to support 3, 100kW wind turbines and 300kWh of battery storage.”

$150,000 for a “Biomass Housing Conversion” project for “funding for a feasibility study to examine displacing heating oil with wood pellets and chips.”

$135,000 for “Development of Biomass Wood Pellet Course” that will provide “funding to support the development of a training program on the operation and maintenance of biomass wood pellet heating systems.”

These projects and the resultant funding are just the beginning. In December 2020 it was announced as part of the federal Liberals’ expanded climate plan, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy”, they will “invest an additional $300 million over five years to advance the government’s commitment to ensure rural, remote and Indigenous communities that currently rely on diesel have the opportunity to be powered by clean, reliable energy by 2030.”

You may wonder why the government would be giving so much public money to these projects.

There has been influence. Take for example the World Wildlife Fund, the organization where Gerald Butts held the position of President and CEO before becoming political advisor and staffer to Prime Minister Trudeau. They have been open about their desire to replace fossil fuels in the Arctic with renewables and believe one of the biggest reasons why renewables are not more prevalent is that there is a lack of policy that supports these energy sources. Therefore, they are pushing the government to enact legislation or regulations that will stop oil and gas development in the Arctic, stop the use of diesel and heating oil, and start mandating the use of renewables

World Wildlife Fund, like many of the ENGOs, is working with Indigenous communities to gain their buy-in and support for renewables. They have been touring around a demonstration solar panel, touting the benefits of cheap energy and jobs that can result from these projects, and they have been successful at gaining community support.

While there may be community benefits, things are not always as they are represented. The community of Kugaaruk, Nunavut received $1.3 million from Natural Resources Canada for a three-year energy plan, which will include exploring the use of solar panels and wind turbines to get the community off diesel. Solar panels were added to the arena, but for three years they have not produced any electricity because they do not comply with the utility’s requirements, so modifications are required.

Energy use is increasing, and we will require all sources to meet these demands; however, energy policy needs to be practicable and free from influence so that the best decisions can be made for the people affected.

Deidra has been working in the oil and gas industry for over 15 years. She held roles of varying seniority in joint venture contracts where she was responsible for negotiating access to pipelines, compressors, plants, and batteries. As well, she was involved in drafting and interpreting contracts, and working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure the negotiated commercial arrangements were implemented correctly. She spent the last few years leading the Joint Venture department at a mid-size natural gas producer.

In her spare time, Deidra is an independent energy advocate who writes articles and open letters that are published on EnergyNow.ca and are widely shared on social media. She advocates to inspire energy supporters across the country to have confidence to speak up proudly for the Canadian industry from coast to coast in an effort to have balanced, honest, fact-based conversations.

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