Ex­am­in­ing en­ergy se­cu­rity is­sues in south­ern Labrador

Nu­natuKavut pro­ject re­veals dif­fer­ent con­cerns in Black Tickle and St. Lewis; re­searchers thrilled with com­mu­nity en­gage­ment

The Labradorian - - Front Page - BY THOM BARKER SPE­CIAL TO THE NORTH­ERN PEN

Half­way through data col­lec­tion on a pro­ject to im­prove en­ergy se­cu­rity for three south­ern Labrador com­mu­ni­ties, re­searchers say it is go­ing bet­ter than they ex­pected.

Abi­gail Poole, one of three re­search as­sis­tants hired lo­cally for the pro­ject, said the suc­cess is at least par­tially at­trib­ut­able to the in­volve­ment of com­mu­nity mem­bers on the team cur­rently con­duct­ing sur­veys in Black Tickle, St. Lewis and Nor­man’s Bay.

“My in­volve­ment with this pro­ject is su­per im­por­tant be­cause I’m al­ready very close to my com­mu­nity mem­bers, so gath­er­ing peo­ple for sur­veys or talking them through what the pro­ject is about is just a chat to have with them re­ally, so it’s a sim­ple con­ver­sa­tion,” she said.

The re­search as­sis­tants, Poole and Siob­han Slade from St. Lewis and Stacey Roberts from Black Tickle, were made pos­si­ble by fund­ing from Con­ser­va­tion Corps New­found­land and Labrador, a non-profit with the stated mis­sion of “pro­vid­ing youth with train­ing and em­ploy­ment in en­vi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural her­itage.”

Ni­cholas Mercer, a PhD can­di­date from the Univer­sity of Water­loo’s In­sti­tute for Sus­tain­able En­ergy (WISE), who was en­gaged by the Nu­natuKavut Com­mu­nity Coun­cil to head up the re­search, said the up­take so far has been very high. In Black Tickle they con­ducted 33 in­ter­views rep­re­sent­ing 65 per cent of the house­holds and in St. Lewis 31 in­ter­views rep­re­sent­ing 40 per cent of house­holds.

“The com­mu­ni­ties have been very en­gaged, re­ally help­ful and highly sup­port­ive of our pro­ject so far,” Mercer said.

Al­though un­able to pro­vide spe­cific de­tails be­cause the data is pre­lim­i­nary, Mercer said two over­all trends have emerged.

In Black Tickle, he said, the big­gest con­cern is the se­cure avail­abil­ity of fuel.

“As most peo­ple know, Black Tickle is a tun­dra is­land, so there is no lo­cally avail­able fuel source, com­mu­nity mem­bers have to go up­wards of 40 kilo­me­tres each way to col­lect fire­wood,” he said. “Be­cause of that a lot of the com­mu­nity is de­pen­dent on oil fur­naces and two years ago the lo­cal fuel sup­plier left the com­mu­nity, which cre­ated some ex­treme en­ergy se­cu­rity chal­lenges.”

Fur­ther­more, with Black Tickle’s source of elec­tric­ity be­ing a diesel gen­er­a­tor, elec­tric home heat­ing is un­ten­able for most peo­ple be­cause of the cost.

“So, as of right now, the three forms of heat — wood, oil and elec­tric heat all have sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges,” Mercer said. “Part of the work that we’re do­ing is we’re look­ing at novel and in­no­va­tive ways to help com­mu­nity mem­bers heat their homes.”

St. Lewis, on the other hand, has a ready sup­ply of fire­wood.

“I would even go so far to say fire­wood har­vest­ing is an in­te­gral and im­por­tant part of cul­ture and tra­di­tion in the com­mu­nity,” Mercer said.

The trend that has emerged there has to do with what he calls a “pro­ce­dural jus­tice is­sue.”

“Over the last few years, elec­tric­ity rates have been ris­ing in the com­mu­nity and elec­tric­ity rates are an­tic­i­pated to con­tinue to grow as a re­sult of the Lower Churchill Pro­ject,” he said. “There’s cer­tainly some angst in the com­mu­nity be­cause they’re pay­ing for Muskrat Falls via in­creases in their elec­tric­ity bills, but they’re not nec­es­sar­ily ben­e­fit­ing from the pro­ject.

“In fact, the high volt­age trans­mis­sion lines from Muskrat to the is­land is by­pass­ing many of these coastal com­mu­ni­ties and they’ll never see a kilo­watt of elec­tric­ity from that pro­ject.”

Part of the im­pe­tus be­hind the Nu­natuKavut ini­tia­tive, which is par­tially funded by a $25,000 grant from the So­cial Sciences and Hu­man­i­ties Re­search Coun­cil of Canada, is re­duc­ing re­liance on diesel gen­er­a­tion for both eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons, but it is not a sim­ple equa­tion.

“The thing about the diesel power is it does pro­vide jobs for peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ties,” said Slade, who is a heavy diesel me­chanic in St. Lewis. “I think that pair­ing diesel with per­haps another re­new­able en­ergy source would prob­a­bly be a way to go po­ten­tially in our fu­ture.”

How­ever, she said, the crit­i­cal thing is that what­ever the so­lu­tion might be, it is not ex­ter­nally-im­posed.

“I would be open to tak­ing train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion, in or­der to per­haps main­tain wind tur­bines or tidal tur­bines or what­ever way they go,” she said. “I think ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing in com­mu­ni­ties would be es­sen­tial and mak­ing sure the com­mu­ni­ties are part of the de­ci­sion that’s made.”

Last week, the group took a break from their ac­tiv­i­ties in south­ern Labrador to travel to New Brunswick for a Shared Fu­ture con­fer­ence. Shared Fu­ture is a five-year re­search pro­ject funded by the Cana­dian In­sti­tutes for Health Re­search. Shared Fu­ture team mem­bers are nu­mer­ous aca­demic, In­dige­nous, gov­ern­ment, com­mu­nity and in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives from across Canada and around the world in­clud­ing Emily Bea­cock, an en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies Master’s stu­dent at Dal­housie Univer­sity, who is work­ing along­side the group in south­ern Labrador and look­ing at the re­search from a slightly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive from Mercer.

“He’s do­ing com­mu­nity en­ergy plan­ning, un­der­stand­ing com­mu­nity per­spec­tives, and I am tak­ing that, I’m go­ing a lit­tle bit fur­ther look­ing for com­mu­nity per­spec­tives on health and well­be­ing both of the pop­u­la­tion of the com­mu­nity and of the land, the wa­ter, the air, the ice and how re­new­able de­vel­op­ment and sus­tain­abil­ity de­vel­op­ment in these com­mu­ni­ties can be done in a way that re­spects how the com­mu­ni­ties feel about their own health and the en­vi­ron­ment around them,” she said.

The team is back in St. Lewis this week be­fore mov­ing on to Nor­man’s Bay.

SUBMITTED

From left, Nick Mercer, Abi­gail Poole and Siob­han Slade head to Wil­liams Har­bour to check out a so­lar power in­stal­la­tion dur­ing their re­search into en­ergy se­cu­rity for Black Tickle, St. Lewis and Nor­man’s Bay.

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