Community-powered local energy planning and transitioning in off-grid northwestern Ontario First Nation communities
Doctor of Philosophy
DisciplineNatural Resources Management
SubjectCommunity energy planning
Energy systems in Canada's remote communities
Off-grid sustainable energy
First Nations energy plans
MetadataShow full item record
Accessing reliable and affordable electricity is a challenge for Canada’s remote First Nations in northwestern Ontario. These off-grid communities rely on expensive and environmentally harmful diesel-powered electricity, resulting in high electricity costs and limited socio-economic growth. Thus, the communities are transitioning to address these limitations through local energy planning to better meet local challenges and community development goals. This research study provides an insight into the challenges of local energy planning for off-grid First Nations and explores several key questions through its transition: (i) the contextual complexities in Canada’s energy system that affect a bottom-up, community-based energy project; (ii) the socio-cultural and capacity building gaps when developing local energy solutions; and (iii) community energy planning as a pathway to reconciliation. A Community-based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) model was adopted within the overarching framework of an Indigenous Research Paradigm (IRP). Research was initiated using intrinsic case studies with Poplar Hill First Nation as the representative location and the Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project as the transition context. The results indicated the gaps in capacity and the benefits of sustainable energy projects developed through meaningful consultations. Knowledge mobilization was facilitated through the development of capacity-building tools, community workshops, and open houses to advance community energy literacy, the identification of local champions, raising awareness and stimulating discussions at community energy conferences, and expanding academic scholarships. Research findings suggest that the path to reconciliation requires “Indigenizing energy planning” through culturally appropriate, decolonizing approaches that foster mutual respect and shared values.
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