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[mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]T[/mk_dropcaps]HE QULLIQ IS A CENTREPIECE in traditional Inuit culture. A crescent-shaped stone lamp, fuelled by oil from the fat of whales, seals or even caribou, it sustains a small band of flame that provides light and heat inside an igloo or tent through long and dark Arctic winters.
A qulliq is difficult to maintain. The fat that fuels one must be pounded to separate out the oil before it can be lit. The flame requires regular attention, lest soot build up and snuff it out. But for all their delicacy, the qulliq is a powerful tool, one that has helped sustain Inuit life over millennia.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][mk_image src=”http://www.energy-exchange.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/acp11495.jpg” image_width=”800″ image_height=”600″ crop=”true” lightbox=”true” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” title=”Communities in Canada’s North, such as Pangnirtung, Nunavut, face unique energy challenges.” desc=”ALEXANDRA KOBALENKO / ALL CANADA PHOTOS. ” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]In some respects, the qulliq also symbolizes the energy challenge of Canada’s Far North, for both conventional and alternative technologies. The region is remote. The population is small, often isolated and sometimes lacking in local capacity. Climate conditions are extreme and the costs of developing infrastructure are exorbitant. So, people must make the most of the resources and opportunities at hand, knowing that — like the qulliq — even small innovations can have meaningful impacts on energy reliability, sustainability and self-sufficiency. The result can lead to healthier communities and improved economies. They can even support the cultural traditions vital to the region.
Still, the challenges are daunting. All three of Canada’s territories — Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut — are isolated from southern power grids, leaving them no external backup in times of need. Where grids do exist, such as in the regions north and south of Great Slave Lake in the N.W.T. or in southern Yukon, they are often legacies of old mining projects that developed hydro resources to support their work.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”22″ align=”left”]Although the challenge of powering the Far North is daunting, it has not overwhelmed. Northerners are moving forward.[/mk_blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]These legacies are valuable foundations of contemporary northern energy infrastructure. But they are confined to specific areas, leaving communities outside their reach, including all 25 in Nunavut, reliant on imported diesel fuel to generate heat and light, a costly option in both economic and environmental terms.
The absence of widespread infrastructure weighs heavily on the social and economic outlook for the Far North. Although rich in mineral, oil and natural gas resources, energy costs, among other infrastructure deficits, severely constrain development opportunities, depriving the North of job creation, training and capacity building at the community level, and revenue for governments to invest in improved health care, education and infrastructure.
“There are not a lot of opportunities to put power into communities on a grid system and then use that power for [economic development],” notes Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. “In fact, in our history, the opposite has happened. Mining has the horsepower to [drive] large energy infrastructure that becomes legacy for others.”
Although the challenge of powering the North is daunting, it has not overwhelmed. Major investments in projects such as the extension of transmission lines or building connections to southern grids may be economically impossible, given the size of local markets. But northerners are moving forward as best they can, with large and small projects to increase the reliability of their energy systems, control or reduce costs and, perhaps most importantly, displace long-standing reliance on diesel wherever possible.
“They are small, incremental changes,” says Andrew Stewart, director of business development for NWT Energy Corp. “But they are certainly positive and they have the prospect of affordability and sustainability as outcomes.”
How so? Read on.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_button dimension=”three” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” outline_active_color=”#fff” outline_hover_color=”#333333″ bg_color=”#13bdd2″ text_color=”light” icon=”moon-next” url=”/powering-the-north/2/” target=”_self” align=”right” fullwidth=”false” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″ animation=”scale-up”]Next Page[/mk_button][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]