Northern Alberta community receives grant to fight high energy bills, food costs

The Alberta government hopes an energy efficiency grant to Fort Chipewyan will alleviate the high living costs that plague the northern Alberta community.

Fort Chipewyan receives $600,000 for energy retrofits and $1.5 million for elders residence

Fort Chipewyan is a predominantly Cree, Dene and Métis community that's only accessible by air, except in the winter when there’s an ice road. (David Thurton/ CBC)

The Alberta government hopes an energy efficiency grant to Fort Chipewyan will alleviate the high living costs that plague the northern Alberta community.

Fort Chipewyan is one of the first Alberta Indigenous communities to benefit from an Indigenous Energy Efficiency Grant under the province's carbon tax and climate leadership plan, Indigenous Minister Richard Feehan said Friday.

The predominantly Cree, Dene and Métis community is approximately 220 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, and is only accessible by air, except in the winter when there's an ice road.

To combat the high cost of food and energy, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) has announced plans to open its own grocery store in the community this spring. It will compete with the Northern Store that's owned by the North West Company.

The ACFN will receive a $636,460 grant, Feehan said in Fort Chipewyan, which will be used to outfit the new grocery store and six houses new houses with energy efficient appliances and materials. 
From left to right, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Coun. Raymond Cardinal, Chief Allan Adam, Minister Richard Feehan, Coun. Michele Voyageur and workers from the project. (Alberta Government)

"If you can reduce your electrical and heating cost by 25 per cent, that puts you in a much better place," Feehan said. "I think we are expecting this will be a boon for the community."

$20,000 in annual savings 

The minister said he expects the grant will save the nation about $14,000 a year in energy costs for the six homes and $6,000 a year for the store.

Michelle Voyageur, an ACFN band councillor, said the nation intends to use the money in the store for LED lighting, better insulation and a high-efficiency refrigeration system that reuses heat.

"It's definitely going to help save on overhead costs," Voyageur said.

Residents of Fort Chipewyan, one of Alberta’s northernmost communities, say they've had to fly in their own food 1:32

Feehan was also in the community to announce that the region's only assisted living facility, the Keykanow Elders Care Home, will receive $1.5 million in operating costs.

The 12-space assisted-living facility opened in 2014. 

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook and Twitter, email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca

About the Author

David Thurton

David Thurton is CBC's mobile journalist in Fort McMurray. He's worked for CBC in the Maritimes & in Canada's Arctic. Email: david.thurton@cbc.ca