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Feds give funding to help get Labrador communities off diesel

James Carr, federal minister of natural resources
James Carr, federal minister of natural resources

A new federal government program may provide an opportunity for Labrador’s coastal communities to enhance their energy security.

On Feb. 16, James Carr, Canada’s minister of natural resources, announced $220 million in federal funding to help rural and remote communities reduce their reliance on diesel fuel.

“We are pleased to work together with the provinces and territories on these initiatives to promote cleaner, more reliable energy supply in rural and remote communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada’s North and create new opportunities for social and economic development in these communities,” the minister said. “Our government’s green infrastructure funding will also help to ensure that Canada is a global leader in the transition to a greener economy.

All of Labrador’s coastal communities rely on diesel for their electricity and although most homes still consume wood and/or stove oil for heat, some homes in those communities are heated by electricity. Last year, the Nunatsiavut government published its Energy Security Plan, which noted the rising cost of diesel and a growing demand for electricity puts the five Inuit communities on the north coast in a precarious situation and hinders economic growth.

The Nunatsiavut Plan outlines a multi-level framework for reducing reliance on diesel that may include initiatives such as linking into the provincial energy grid, implementing renewable energy systems (eg. wind, solar, biomass) or upgrading diesel plants along with parallel strategies such as increasing energy efficiency and improving community skills.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) confirmed the Nunatsiavut communities and the types of projects being considered are eligible for funding.

Bert Pomeroy, media spokesperson for Nunatsiavut, said the Inuit government is in the very early stages of examining the federal program and determining how it aligns with the Nunatsiavut energy plan.

“What I can tell you is that some initiatives may be eligible, but we don’t know for sure at this point,” Pomeroy said in an email.

Eligible projects include: renewable electricity installations, bioenergy installations, technological innovations, energy efficiency improvements, pre-feasibility studies, energy plans, training and skills development and diesel-to-diesel upgrades.

Projects from municipalities, provinces, Crown utilities, indigenous communities, research organizations and industry will be considered. Bioheat and demonstration projects may be funded up to 100 per cent. Electricity deployment projects are eligible for up to 40 per cent funding with the other 60 per cent coming from provincial and/or local sources.

The initial process is an online questionnaire to assess a project’s eligibility. Eligible projects will then be referred to a program officer to begin the application process. An application guide is available through the NRCan website.

In a press release announcing the program, NRCan said the $220 million is part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, a broader federal government approach to promote sustainable energy and reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“This funding builds on more than $53 million provided through Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and is complemented by Infrastructure Canada’s $400 million Arctic Energy Fund, which is specific to the territories to help improve energy security in the North by replacing or upgrading aging fossil fuel energy infrastructure,” the release stated.

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