Graduate Student Visits AEA

Posted 2014-03-20
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During March, Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA) was pleased to host Lawrence Keyte, who is in the second year of a Master's in Sustainability Studies at Trent University, researching energy resilience in northern communities. Specifically, he is looking at success factors which help isolated northern communities reduce their fossil fuel dependence and move into alternative energy initiatives. Below is his summary of the project he was working on while at our office.

Upon researching northern community energy projects, it became quickly apparent that a lot was happening in NWT regarding energy policy, research and support for these projects. Several NWT energy professionals suggested I take a look at the Fort McPherson biomass boiler initiative as a case study. They saw this project as a positive example of a small northern community who conceived and followed through with the necessary steps to put a pilot biomass boiler in place. The 90 kW boiler, which can burn cord wood, wood pellets or locally harvested wood chips, provides district heat to the Tetlit Gwich'in Council band office and the community health center. After my two weeks in Fort McPherson looking at the project and interviewing community members, I came away immensely impressed by the tenacity and determination of those involved, both in the community and in Yellowknife, who brought this vision to reality. This biomass project is already a success, displacing a significant amount of oil and employing people in Fort McPherson involved in the harvesting, processing and transportation of the cord wood and wood chips to feed the boiler. It will continue to be a landmark initiative in my opinion, due to the combined efforts of the community, AEA, and Environment and Natural Resources (ENR).

In an effort to understand all aspects behind the success of these community energy initiatives, I felt it was important to come to Yellowknife to research other levels of support, and to understand the different perspectives of government, not-for-profit support organizations and industry. All roads in Yellowknife seem to intersect at AEA, and I was delighted to be put in touch there with energy management specialist Leanne Robinson, who kindly agreed to not only to help me connect with potential interviewees, but with her partner Dwayne to host me in their home. Leanne also arranged for me to have office space at AEA, which was pivotal to my learning during the two weeks I was there.

While in Yellowknife I formally interviewed nine people, and had informal discussions, coffees and tours with many more. I came away with valuable perspectives from many energy professionals at AEA, from GNWT (ENR, Industry, Tourism and Investment, and Public Works and Services), from industry and from energy consultants. Apart from exceeding all my expectations for learning and understanding the myriad of factors that create success for these community energy initiatives, I came away with an enduring respect and fondness for the people who hosted me at AEA, and the warmth with which I was welcomed in Fort McPherson and Yellowknife.

A return data verification trip is planned for late May or early June. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again then, and continuing the good conversations we began in March!

The picture above shows Lawrence enjoying the northern outdoors.