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Inuit want to benefit from the economic potential of electricity in Nunavik

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar26,2024

Inuit want to benefit from the economic potential of electricity in Nunavik< /p>Open in full screen mode

The Inukjuak dam has been in operation since October 2023. It has a production capacity of 7.5 megawatts.

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Generating income through electricity production has become an increasingly attractive possibility for the communities of Nunavik, who are trying at all costs to diversify their economy and create stable jobs in the Far North of Quebec.

The portrait of electricity production in Nunavik is rather paradoxical. While part of the region's rivers supply the large hydroelectric power stations of James Bay, Nunavik is dependent on hydrocarbons for lighting and heating.

Almost every community in Nunavik has an oil-fired thermal power plant, operated by Hydro-Québec.

For several years, however, the state corporation has been open to involving more Inuit in the energy sector.

The example of the community of Inukjuak is the most representative of this desire. A small 7.5 megawatt hydroelectric dam, 50% owned by the Inuit through the Pituvik Land Corporation, began producing electricity for residents last October.

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The dam should meet the vast majority of the electrical needs of the community of Inukjuak, located on the edge of Hudson Bay.

The energy is sold to Hydro-Québec, which takes care of the distribution of electricity to the village. The dam is expected to generate $2.5 million per year for the community for at least 40 years.

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We will be able to reinvest it in the local priorities of the community, on economic development projects. We would also like to invest in professional training for residents, explains Eric Atagotaaluk, director of the Pituvik land corporation.

This is a project that was initiated by the community, which owns the project, so we are very, very proud, he adds.

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The revenue generated will be redistributed in the community in order, in particular, to encourage the development of local businesses, which makes Eric Atagotaaluk particularly proud.

In addition to generating revenue for the land corporation, the Inukjuak dam should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 700,000 tonnes for the next 40 years in the village.

The example of Inukjuak shows the potential for wealth creation through energy production in the region.

A windfall that regional players wish to benefit from. It is for this reason in particular that the Makivvik company and the Fédération des cooperatives du Nouveau-Québec set up the company Énergies Tarquti in 2017.

The organization's mandate is to evaluate the best solutions for creating renewable energy and to support communities in this transition.

Local players said to themselves: let's pool our strengths and develop our own entity, where we can train people locally, develop our own expertise, our projects and 'ensure that the benefits remain in the region, explains the general manager of Tarquti, Joë Lance.

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Joë Lance put the involvement of Nunavik communities at the heart of Tarquti's operations.

The company is currently evaluating project options in at least eight communities that could include wind, solar and hydropower.

However, it is unlikely that all communities will be able to build dams like in Inukjuak, which is definitely the most productive option.

What we are aiming for is a shift away from diesel, therefore a reduction of at least 50% at the community level. It could even go up to 70% and ideally 100%. […] Not only for thermal power plants, but also for heating buildings and water, then possibly recharging electric cars, adds Joë Lance.

Run-of-river dam projects, however, encounter some resistance in Nunavik communities. Fears which are diminishing at the rate of consultations in the villages organized by Tarquti.

People still have in mind the great upheavals brought about by the development of the James Bay hydroelectric dams.

This is particularly the case with the drowning of some 10,000 caribou on the Caniapiscau River in 1984, due to the sudden opening of the gates of Hydro-Québec's Caniapiscau reservoir.

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The wind potential of the region is currently being studied by Tarquti. A first wind turbine could also see the light of day at Quaqtaq by 2026. (Archive photo)

Run-of-river dams like in Inukjuak would, however, have much less impact on the environment, and the completion of this project seems to give confidence to other communities.

It reassures people, there are several who have confirmed to us that they want it in their community because it has good potential. But this is not possible in all communities, explains Joë Lance.

The village of Kangirsuk would be among the most promising for the possible construction of a dam.

Feasibility analyzes are underway. However, such a work will require several years of preparation.

A challenge that communities are ready to face, in order to diversify economic opportunities and move towards greener electricity production in the region.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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