As Inuvik's natural gas contract nears end, gov't touts wind power as 'a priority'

With only seven months to go until the town of Inuvik loses its natural gas supplier, the territorial government says they believe they've found a partial replacement for the looming energy shortfall.

Potential project brings new power to highest diesel consumption community in the territory

A small tower at the Aurora Research Institute in Inuvik tests wind power in 2015. The territorial government is looking at a new wind project to help reduce the community's reliance on diesel fuel. (Philippe Morin)

There's only seven months until the town of Inuvik's contract with its natural gas supplier expires, and with the town's energy future uncertain, the Northwest Territories government says it believes it found a partial replacement for the looming shortfall.

In January of 2017, Inuvik Gas Ltd. announced they were pulling out of a 10-year contract with the town. The company is required to continue supplying Inuvik with natural gas until December this year.

Inuvik's senior administrative officer, Grant Hood, said the town has been meeting with Inuvik Gas discussing next steps — but reassured residents that they won't be left high and dry come 2019.

"They just can't pull up stakes and leave ... They can't turn off the tap and leave town," said Hood.

Inuvik has the highest diesel fuel consumption for electricity in the territory, and even though Inuvik Gas can't just leave the town dry, ending the contract allows other suppliers to enter the community.

Hood said that come December, "if someone else wanted to come and put pipelines into the ground, in theory, they could."

But the territorial government is hoping it found a more sustainable solution. As part of their 2030 Climate Change and Energy Strategy, the Department of Infrastructure announced the Inuvik Wind Project is one of the more viable options for sustainable energy in the Beaufort Delta region.

'This is a priority project'

The Inuvik Wind Project will cost between $30 and $40 million, according to Andrew Stewart, the territory's director of energy. The federal government is cost-sharing the project, and will put in 75 per cent of the costs, while the territorial government will put in the remaining 25 per cent.

Andrew Stewart, the director of the energy division of the territory's department of infrastructure, says the project would cost between $30 to $40 million. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Since 2005, the Aurora Research Institute has been monitoring the potential of long-term wind power in Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Ulukhaktok and Sachs Harbour. Inuvik High Point, located 10 kilometres out of Inuvik, was selected as one of the more favourable locations. 

The project would provide two to four megawatts of wind power to the community, and this has the potential to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 6.5 kilotonnes per year and save about $1.6 to almost $3 million in annual fuel costs.

"Wind power is viable in Inuvik, and this is a priority project," the strategy reads.

According to the Department of Infrastructure, wind energy generated from the Inuvik Wind Project could reduce diesel consumption in the community by up to 30 percent.

In addition to investing in wind energy, CanNor also invested $467,200 last September to study new natural gas resources in the Beaufort Delta region, focusing on well sites around the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is leading the natural gas project, investing $58,400 themselves. The territorial government also invested $58,400 to the project, totalling $584,000.

The wind project is listed as a "short term" action item in the strategy, and is currently scheduled to be sanctioned, designed and built by 2021. A more specific timeline has not yet been made available.

The department will be rolling out their "three-year action plan" by early June and will include a proposal for the project to be approved for funding under the bilateral agreement.






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