Sustainable energy planning in Canada: recognising diversity and the need for Indigenous voices

Crawford School of Public Policy | Resources, Environment and Development Group

Event details

RE&D Research Seminar

Date & time

Thursday 12 March 2020


Crawford Seminar Room 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing, ANU


Professor Paul Parker

Please join us for this upcoming research seminar, hosted by the Resources, Environment and Development group (RE&D).

Renewable energy (primarily hydro-electricity) provides 66 per cent of Canada’s electricity with decarbonisation being achieved through the closure of coal-fired plants and increased wind and solar in several provinces. However, diesel generators are the primary source of electricity in 190 of Canada’s 259 off-grid communities. Recent research and policy initiatives often focus on reducing this carbon-intensive form of electricity by introducing low carbon alternative supplies. Successful examples from the North-West Territories are presented.

While a growing body of literature demonstrates the economic, environmental, and societal challenges of diesel-fired electricity, there is limited research that seeks to understand Indigenous perspectives on off-grid energy systems, despite the fact that 65 per cent of off-grid communities identify as First Nations, Inuit, or Métis.

By partnering with the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC), this research aims to privilege the perspectives of NunatuKavut Inuit who live in nine diesel-dependent communities in southeast Labrador. Our mixed-methods research involved community-member interviews (n = 211) and found support co-existing alongside concerns for diesel-generation.

A key finding is that community-members value socio-economic contributions of diesel-generation such as employment, reliability, familiarity, and contributions to community-resilience – while also expressing concern about environmental degradation and the risk of fuel spills affecting livelihoods. Primary energy-system concerns relate to heat insecurity, and energy systems dependent on external control, support, and inputs.

By privileging voices of Inuit in these diesel-dependent communities, we were able to locate community identified strengths associated with local energy systems, while shifting focus to what community-members perceive as the most pressing energy-related challenges in their communities.

Paul Parker is a Professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo. He has researched sustainable community energy and development issues for over three decades. His research includes Zero Carbon buildings and sustainable developments in southern Canada as well as community interest in renewable energy in remote Indigenous communities. Paul recognizes the importance of efficiency to reduce demand as well as the search for new types of supply. In 2019 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Green Communities Canada and the President’s Award from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario.

Please note this seminar begins at 3pm, rather than our normal time of 12:30pm due to a clash with another seminar at lunchtime.

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