Inukjuak is one of more than 200 remote communities – mostly indigenous – in Canada that relies on diesel generators for electricity. The town of 1,821 mostly Inuit residents, located in northern Quebec, is not accessible by road, only by expensive flights and boats – when the rivers are not frozen over. Like many other supplies that come by tankers, the energy residents consume is transported over Hudson’s Bay during the summer season.
The town is not connected to the main power grid. Instead, the electricity comes from polluting diesel generators. This dependence has negative consequences for the community, not only in terms of air pollution but also the threats to public health and the local environment. In 2015, an error made while transferring diesel resulted in 13,500 litres spilling into the ground in Inukjuak. A disaster for a community that relies on land and water for a large part of its food supply.
However, a community-driven renewable energy microgrid could soon end Inukjuak’s dependence on diesel. About 10km north-east of Inukjuak, on the Innuksuac River, the Innavik Hydro Project is under construction. The 7.5MW project could completely replace the diesel needs for electricity and heating in the community, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 700,000 tonnes over 40 years, according to Hydro-Québec, a public utility serving the province of Quebec.
The Innavik Hydro Project is a run-of-river project, meaning that it has little or no water storage and that the plant is subject to seasonal river flows. Because there is less disturbance to natural waterways, these projects are better for riparian habitats and wildlife compared with traditional hydroelectric dams.