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Features Canada 21-06-2022

4 min read

Hitachi Energy Accelerates the Clean Energy Transition with Indigenous Communities in Canada

Fort Chipewyan Microgrid Project (Courtesy of 3NE and Clean50)

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. It is an important occasion to recognize and honour the diverse cultures, heritage, voices, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Hitachi Energy is not only committed to placing diversity and inclusion at the core of our long-term business success, but we are proud to support remote Indigenous communities across the country shift from fossil-based to renewable power generation and accelerate the clean energy transition. We sat down with Omar Osorio, Account Manager for Hitachi Energy Canada, to discuss how our technologies are enabling Indigenous communities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and achieve energy independence.

There are many economic, societal, and environmental benefits to
shifting to renewable energy! 

Omar Osorio

Account Manager
Hitachi Energy Canada

Tell us about some of the projects Hitachi Energy has worked on with Indigenous communities in Canada.

For years, we have been collaborating with utility providers and remote communities in Northern Canada who are isolated from electrical grids and rely heavily on diesel generators to produce power. Some of our current projects include Fort Chipewyan in Alberta and Old Crow in Yukon. Fort Chipewyan is an isolated community of 1,200 people that sits on the shore of Lake Athabasca. We collaborated with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation, and the Fort Chipewyan Metis Association on this microgrid project. In addition, Old Crow is a small rural community with approximately 250 residents that belong to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

Both Fort Chipewyan and Old Crow now have their own standalone microgrid systems with adjacent solar farms. The Fort Chipewyan project enables the community to run on 100% renewable energy and maximize fuel savings, while also reducing diesel consumption by 800,000 liters per year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 2150 tonnes per year, and improving overall air quality. Additionally, some of the benefits of the Old Crow project include reducing diesel consumption by 170,000 liters per year, reducing CO2 emissions by 750 tonnes per year, and the project is estimated to generate nearly $400,000 a year in revenue that will be invested back in the community.

How do these projects help Indigenous communities reduce environmental impacts and gain energy independence?

Previously, Fort Chipewyan and Old Crow had relied on burning expensive diesel fuel for all their electricity production, which depended on a small window to access winter ice roads for delivery. Now, both of these projects have improved the overall carbon footprint of the communities by reducing the amount of diesel transported each year, which ultimately translates to less vehicles on the road during wintertime. In other words, Fort Chipewyan and Old Crow are able to generate their own renewable electricity and secure their clean energy future. There are numerous benefits to promoting energy independence for Indigenous communities: not only do Indigenous-led projects lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality, but they result in more jobs, large cost savings, and make sure that Indigenous knowledge and rights are preserved.

How do projects in remote communities differ from our other clean energy projects in larger cities?

One of the main differences is access: larger cities have full access to transportation routes whereas remote communities like Fort Chipewyan and Old Crow are limited due to their geographical locations and difficult seasonal conditions. In addition, the environmental impact of clean energy projects in small off-grid communities is more significant than a grid connected in a larger city—that’s because these projects enable Indigenous communities to take control of their clean energy futures as well as directly advance reconciliation in Canada.  

What is the importance of collaboration and engagement with Indigenous communities in these projects?

Close collaboration and engagement with Indigenous peoples is essential to be able to understand the unique needs and cultural values of these communities and ensure the success of their renewable energy projects. What is important to keep in mind about these technologies is that they have large multigenerational benefits—meaning they will not only impact today’s generation, but they will supply clean energy to these communities for generations to come. It’s just one of the ways we are helping to an advance a sustainable energy future for all.

Above all, I am grateful to have been a part of these projects from their conception all the way to their execution, and to be able to learn more about Indigenous communities in this country. These are the kinds of projects that make me proud of what we do!

Hitachi Energy Canada is committed to accelerating the shift from fossil fuels to renewable power across the country and to collaborating with Indigenous communities to advance the clean energy transition. Learn more about our Diversity and Inclusion commitments and our Sustainability 2030 strategic plan.

[1] Source: Pembina Institute.