Canadians Living in Remote Communities Lack Access to Affordable and Reliable Electricity

OTTAWA, Sept. 27, 2016 /CNW/ - Accessing reasonably priced electricity remains a challenge for over 200,000 individuals living in Canada's nearly 300 remote communities, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report. Their reliance on locally generated electricity means electricity prices can be as much as nine times higher than the Canadian average.

"Remote communities are not connected to the main North American electricity grid and do not receive the benefits that 99 per cent of the Canadian population take for granted, such as guaranteed, reliable and affordable electricity," said Christopher Duschenes, Director, Centre for the North, The Conference Board of Canada. "They rely solely on locally generated electricity, which typically comes from diesel-powered generators. This limits the potential growth of these communities, results in high electricity costs, and can have adverse environmental impacts."

Highlights

  • For over 200,000 individuals living in Canada's nearly 300 remote, mainly Aboriginal off-grid communities, access to affordable and reliable electricity remains a challenge.
  • Lacking a connection to the main North American electricity grid, these communities rely solely on locally-generated electricity, which typically comes from expensive and polluting diesel-powered generation facilities.
  • In addition to the higher costs they generate, diesel powered generators also have harmful effects on the environment, emitting high quantities of air pollutants that affect the health of local residents.

Canada's remote communities are located across the country and range in size from as few as 10 dwellings, to having over 20,000 residents. Relative to Canada as a whole, a disproportionately large number of remote communities have majority Aboriginal populations. All communities in each of Canada's three territories qualify as remote and not one of the communities is connected with the main North American electricity grid.

Lacking access to the North American electricity grid, remote communities cannot benefit from the economies of scale that grid-connected communities receive and have much higher electricity costs. In Kugaaruk, Nunavut, for example, the un-subsidized residential electricity rate is over 9 times as high ($1.14/kWh) as the Canadian average ($0.12/kWh). As such, rates are often subsidized by regional governments to ensure that they are affordable.

In addition to the poor economies of scale, the diesel generators that power most remote communities have higher operational costs than most other generation technologies. Transportation costs for diesel fuel is high, especially for communities that lack road access. Storing large volumes of diesel over long periods of time also serve to drive up costs, as the storage facilities are expensive to purchase and maintain. Moreover, since the price of diesel fuel is strongly linked to crude oil prices, electricity costs for remote communities often fluctuate sharply.

On top of the higher operational costs of diesel powered generators, they also have harmful effects on the environment. Diesel powered generators emit large quantities of air pollutants that impact local air quality and the health of local residents.

While Canada's remote communities are spread across the country and have their own unique set of circumstances, there are a variety of solutions they can adopt to address their electricity system challenges. Options to help reduce reliance on diesel generation include use of natural gas generators, wind turbines, hydro generators and many other innovative technologies. On the other hand, options that decrease electricity usage can include the use of smart meters and improving energy efficiency.

The report, Power Shift: Electricity for Canada's Remote Communities, is available via The Conference Board of Canada's e–Library.

The Centre for the North is a forum for thought leaders and senior representatives from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, as well as Aboriginal organizations and academia. All parties have a vested interest in building a prosperous, healthy future for Canada's North. Centre members work together to further the conversation on, and define actions and solutions around, Northern prosperity, resilience, and well-being.

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SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca; Juline Ranger, Director of Communications, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 431, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca

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