Arctic Council: Planning for a greener Arctic future
September 29, 2019
The Arctic Community Energy Planning and Implementation Toolkit
Arctic winters tend to be long and, in many places, extremely cold. Energy use in Arctic communities therefore can be very high, making reliable and affordable electricity and heating a priority. Today, many Arctic communities rely almost exclusively on fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation. These fuels can come from local sources or be shipped in by land, sea, or air – and those transportation methods bring still more challenges and costs. Thus, there is a growing need, desire, and opportunity for communities to develop clean energy projects.
However, for communities to successfully turn to clean energy, they need a solid plan – a Community Energy Plan – to define their unique goals related to energy. A need the Gwich’in Council International recognized, as it reached out to the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group with a proposal for the Arctic Sustainable Energy Futures Toolkit project.
“This project is illustrative of the value that we saw in the Arctic Council. Gwich’in communities are powered by environmentally dirty and economically expensive, diesel. There is a commitment of many of the Arctic states, as well as Observers, to shift their power generation towards renewable sources. Gwich’in communities are aiming to do the same and in many instances, instead of being project partners, are acting as project proponents and are even owning the infrastructure and leasing it back to government or selling energy to the power corporation”, says Edward Alexander, co-chair of Gwich’in Council International (GCI).
The toolkit was finalized earlier this year and provides Arctic communities with a jump start to create a path to a reliable and affordable energy future. It is based on the actual experiences of communities across the Arctic and draws from challenges and success stories. The toolkit brings together the best in circumpolar thinking on clean energy and shares it in a format that is easy to follow and builds confidence in individuals and communities to develop their own clean energy projects – projects that are in line with community priorities, are technically sound, adhere to local energy regulations, and embrace local culture.
The toolkit is not prescriptive, but rather assists communities and clean energy champions across the Arctic to have a framework for better discussions about their energy futures and energy skills and knowledge. It includes resource guides, case studies, templates, worksheets, and strategies from communities. The framework includes nine stages, from defining the local energy system through to business planning and implementation. The idea is that a community that follows the toolkit step-by-step and uses the provided resources will have a community energy plan by the end of the process. Or, communities can pick parts of the Toolkit based on what they need.
The Arctic Sustainable Energy Futures Toolkit project was led jointly by the Gwich’in Council International, the Governments of Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as the Netherlands, one of the 39 Observers to the Arctic Council. “We are proud to have been able to see this project to fruition as it also marks an important milestone for GCI: it is the first project that we proposed and completed at the Arctic Council”, states Edward Alexander.
During the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the Sustainable Development Working Group is looking into a follow-up to the project. “One of our main activities would be to establishing pilot projects in communities. We would also work on developing an Arctic Sustainable Energy Futures Fund that will help communities to fully realize energy initiatives proposed in their community energy plans. This project is an excellent fit under the Icelandic Chairmanship, which lists green energy solutions as one of its priorities”, states Stefán Skjaldarson, Chair of the Working Group.