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How the First Nations Major Project Coalition Builds with Low Carbon Natural Resources Posted by Best Access Doors Canada on 15th Mar 2023

As part of the Canadian government's efforts to reach the net-zero emissions target by 2050, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) has moved to support the geothermal energy feasibility study across Nunavut, Canada's northern territories, with over $1.2 million investment for three years. This project is a significant indication of the government's smooth-sailing work with the Indigenous communities, businesses, partners, and organizations, aiming to find a long-term strategic plan to lessen carbon-based energy usage and explore potential alternative energy sources, like geothermal. Before we delve into the Nunavut power generation study, let's first look at and learn more about geothermal energy and why many experts often pick it as a good energy source alternative to limit climate change.

What is geothermal energy?

The term geo in geothermal means earth, and when combined with the word thermal, which can be synonymous with heat, creates a literal meaning of heat energy from the earth. Hence, geothermal energy sources are resources extracted from the various hot water reservoirs in the world, regardless of whether they naturally exist or are artificially made by humans at different temperatures and in various underground Earth surface depths.

For instance, wells that are in few feet deep or several miles more can be drilled and turned into an underground reservoir to draw steam and boiling water which people aim to carry to the surface. From then, they can utilize it in various applications, like heating and cooling and, more importantly, electricity generation. Here are some more geothermal energy benefits that the world can get if many switch to utilizing this resource:

  • Renewable: One of the many advantages of geothermal resources is their renewable energy, as the earth's heat is steadily available for replenishment through the natural decay of existing radioactive elements. Moreover, the government can expect to have this energy source accessible for billions of years.
  • Baseload: The geothermal power plants can operate consistently, 24 hours every day or seven days every week, no matter what weather circumstance Canada is in for a particular moment.
  • Small footprint: The geothermal energy power plants are compact to utilize as it only uses less land per gigawatt-hour (404 m2) than the relative coal (3,642 m2), wind (1,335 m2), and solar photovoltaic (PV) power stations (3,237 m2) capacity.
  • Clean: As the Canadian government leans toward using green energy, geothermal is one of the resources often suggested because its power plants emit no harmful greenhouse gasses. Compared to solar PV, its life cycle emissions are four times lower while six to 20 times lower than natural gas. Apart from that, geothermal power plants also have less water consumption than many traditional electricity production technologies.

Why Nunavut?

Many might wonder why Nunavut is the chosen location to perform the study. Nowadays, the community utilizes imported diesel fuel to supply the electricity demands in the territory, immensely making the power costs expensive, which left its isolated constituents with no choice but to rely on the fluctuating fuel price. Hence, it's the perfect spot to conduct the study, as the Northern communities are vulnerable to carbon pollution and volatile fuel cost hike.

In addition, the Nunavut Geothermal Favourability Map presents the geothermal potential of the territory, although it'srelatively lower compared to other provinces. However, the absence of necessary research data partially affected the potential calculation, so keeping this factor in mind is essential. You can view Nunavut's estimated Theoretical and Technical potential based on the Global Protocol for Estimating and Mapping Geothermal Potential methodology.

  • Technical Potential: According to Rybach, the theoretical potential's fraction is available under the existing technical restrictions, structural and ecologiclimits and legal and regulatory allowances.
  • Theoretical Potential: Meanwhile, Rybach explains the theoretical potential as a physically usable energy supply over a specific period in a given region. The physical limits of use are its sole definition, marking the upper limit of the theoretically realizable energy supply contribution.

Who funds the Nunavut geothermal energy feasibility study?

With various federal partners' help, Nunavut's geothermal energy feasibility study funding mainly comes from CanNor's Inclusive Diversification and Economic Advancement in the North (IDEANorth) program. The IDEANorth project is known to make foundational investments in different national aspects, including sector development, economic infrastructure, and establishingcapacity to aid Northeners' position within the territory, maximizing Canada's fast-growing economy. In general, they focus on these four priority areas:

  • Economic growth and sector development
  • Business scale-up
  • Productivity and innovation
  • Small-scale economic infrastructure development
  • Foundational economic infrastructure

The $1.2 million investment target is to support the Qulliq Energy Corporation's (QEC) strategic plan to produce an alternative energy source in Nunavut and turn them into an arctic geothermal. QEC is known to be the only generator and distributor of diesel-powered electricity supply among the Nunavut population of 38,456 across more than 25 communities.

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