Canada's Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities

Last updated: 3 August 2023

In Canada, there are over 200 communities that rely completely on diesel for heat and power. They often depend on small diesel-based micro-grids for their energy supply that are inefficient, vulnerable to outages, expensive to operate, and contribute to local pollution. The vast majority of diesel-reliant communities are Indigenous or have significant Indigenous populations. In 2018, Natural Resources Canada launched the eight-year CAD 220 million Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities (CERRC) programme to support community-driven activities aimed at reducing diesel reliance for heat and power in rural, remote and Indigenous communities. The CERRC program operates through four distinct streams: 1) capacity building, 2) bioheat, 3) innovative demonstrations, and 4) deployment. The programme can provide communities with resources to fund capital projects and build the internal capacity needed to drive implementation of a diesel-reduction or renewable energy project. 

As part of this effort, CERRC’s Capacity Building stream has prioritised equity, diversity and inclusion within its programme design, implementation and project selection. CERRC has included specific requirements for applicants to demonstrate how they will encourage and integrate the greater participation of Indigenous women and youth in clean energy, as part of the project and project team itself. Further, the CERRC programme is supporting several projects that aim to support Indigenous women and youth to become future clean energy leaders within their communities. For example, the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources’ project Shining Lights: Energy Literacy and Language in the Northwest Territories was designed to focus on increasing the energy literacy and empower participants to be able to support their community’s energy planning goals. The project held a series of workshops during 2019-2020 that included participation of 60 Indigenous women and youth from 22 Northwest Territories communities. 

In addition to the many capacity building projects the CERRC programme has funded, CERRC is funding Indigenous owned and led clean energy projects. These projects are expected to bring significant benefits and impacts for the communities. For example, the development of the community owned 2.35 MW solar project in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta was a unifying factor that brought three Indigenous communities together for the creation of Three Nations Energy (3NE). 3NE has since become the organisation that leads efforts on community energy planning, using solar in remote cabins, replacing diesel with biomass and sustainable food production. It is also a source of significant community pride and revenue generation. Overall, the CERRC programme has mobilized 115 renewable energy and capacity building projects involving more than 130 diesel-reliant communities. In 2021, the government of Canada announced an additional CAD 300 million over six years, starting in 2022, to continue to advance the work of the programme. 

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