Projects: Towards Energy Security in NunatuKavut

Project Brief

NunatuKavut, meaning ‘our ancient land’, encompasses the central and south eastern portion of Labrador. NunatuKavut is home to a distinct population of Inuit who have long remained connected to the land, sea, and ice of their territory. NunatuKavut communities are working towards wholistic sustainability, balancing a complex web of resources, opportunities and threats that allow them to continue to live according to their culture and values. Currently, all coastal NunatuKavut communities are reliant on diesel fuel for power generation. Community members view diesel as reliable, safe and effective, but there are concerns about how diesel impacts individual and community health as well as environmental sustainability. Renewable energy alternatives could provide an alternate pathway to sustainability, offering greater autonomy and energy security, however discussions about energy transitions must be embedded within culture and community, and defined by Inuit governance structures.

Project Updates

NunatuKavut has been undertaking its own Sustainability Planning, of which the A SHARED Future funds are supporting. Our research team had nine youth train in sustainability research with a focus on renewable energy. We worked with them for eight weeks, training them in survey collection, report writing, and other research-related activities. They attended a conference in Montreal where they participated in presenting and learning about diverse initiatives in climate change and resources. The team wants to continue to work through ASF to do some evaluative research and identify lessons learned from the research project. The team has also been involved in some monitoring work on climate change. Lastly, we are holding another Sustainability Summit in early March of 2020.

The Team would like to welcome Nicole Blinn as a new research assistant, who has been helping to facilitate an evaluation of the NATURE [NunatuKavut Action Team on Understanding Renewable Energy] Youth Council – a team of nine Inuit youth whom where hired from across NunatuKavut to build capacity and steer energy transitions in their own communities. Nick Mercer was recently awarded a two-year SSHRC post-doctoral award to pursue work with Victoria Sandre the address the immediate community priority of heat security in NunatuKavut. and NCC Staff are also working to prepare an application for NRCan’s Forestry Initiative. The team is also supporting the NCC in launching a competitive request for proposals in support of a community firewood social enterprise to be piloted in Black Tickle. Proposals have been accepted and are currently being evaluated. The program will employ and train community-members to harvest, haul, split, and deliver firewood to Elders, seniors, single parents, those with mobility challenges, and others in need in NunatuKavut communities.

Click here to view all bimonthly project updates.

Team meeting in NunatuKavut. Photo credit Nick Mercer

NunatuKavut, Labrador. Photo credit Debbie Martin

Members of the Towards Energy Security in NunatuKavut team at the NunatuKavut Renewable Energy Summit, January 2019. Photo credit Debbie Martin

Objectives

This project is co-led by Debbie Martin (Associate Professor, Dalhousie University) and Amy Hudson (Research Education and Culture Manager, NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC)), building from NCC’s Community Governance and Sustainability Initiative. Additional team members include Mr. George Russell, Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, Ms. Emily Beacock, Dr. Chad Walker, Mr. Nick Mercer, Ms. Victoria Sandre and Mr. Connor Cepella. This multidisciplinary team have been working with these communities and NCC to:

Identify the diverse values, perspectives, tensions and opportunities associated with renewable energy planning and development;

and to Work with the communities to identify capacity-building needs and interests in relation to renewable energy.

The first phase of this research has been completed. Master’s student, Emily Beacock conducted three focus groups and ten interviews to identify community sustainability concerns, as well as priorities and needs related to human health, health of the environment, and community members’ perspectives about energy transitions from diesel to renewable energy. During the same time period, Nick Mercer, funded in partnership with A SHARED Future, SSHRC Engage and NCC, conducted 211 community energy planning interviews with community members and 11 key informant interviews in nine NunatuKavut communities in relation to renewable energy planning.

The first phase of the research has included numerous opportunities to support capacity-building and community engagement in NunatuKavut. In partnership with the Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador, A SHARED Future supported the establishment of the NATURE (NunatuKavut Action Team on Using Renewable Energy) Youth Council. Nine youth from across NunatuKavut joined the NATURE Youth Council to support sustainability research and learn about renewable energy possibilities in their home communities. In addition, our research team has also produced three community results reports, and shared preliminary findings at events in all nine participating communities; as well as two Renewable Energy Research Summits, which allowed findings to be shared with NCC staff, other researchers, and with Nunacor, which is the economic development arm of NCC. Finally, the team has supported NCC in writing several successful grant applications including the NRCAN Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities grant and the Off-Diesel Initiative.

Building from the first phase of research, the team has begun to plan the next steps of the project. Connor Cepella and Victoria Sandre are Master’s students in the Resource and Environmental Management program at Dalhousie and joined the team in early January 2019. They are planning a research project that will build from the momentum of the NATURE Youth Council by evaluating the success of the Council. Nick Mercer is planning to pursue post-doctoral research that enacts some of the recommendations stemming from his doctoral work, including the possibility of a community firewood service as a pathway to sustainability, paired with capacity-building and community engagement around high-efficiency wood stoves. And finally, we are in the early stages of planning an educational event that would provide the opportunity for community members to learn more about different renewable energy possibilities.

Project Team

Co-Leads

Debbie Martin, Amy Hudson

Trainees

Nick Mercer, Abigail Poole

Collaborators

NunatuKavut Community Council: http://www.nunatukavut.ca/home