CamBay residents support CHARS research for energy efficiency
Increase in heating and fuel costs “struck a nerve in a lot of the residents”
Residents of Cambridge Bay showed overwhelming support for research on reducing energy costs April 30 when they packed the local community hall to contribute their views to a study on energy consumption in the Arctic.
A team of researchers from the Yukon Research Centre, of Yukon College in Whitehorse, drew some 250 residents to a “community dinner” event to share some preliminary results from a community energy audit they conducted in the hamlet in 2013.
“I haven’t seen that kind of turnout for a community consultation in quite a long time,” said Jim McEachern, manager of economic development for the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay.
The community event capped a year-long effort by the research centre to collect information for a pilot project known as the “Community Energy and Emissions Inventory,” done in partnership with the Canadian High Arctic Research Station and the hamlet.
“The ultimate goal is to determine energy usage within the community,” McEachern said.
He said CHARS plans to study ways to lessen that usage, lessen reliance on diesel, and look for alternatives.
The Yukon Research Centre and CHARS will release final results of the study in late June.
These will be used to help design an energy-efficient CHARS facility in the community, which begins this year, as well as help inform communities throughout the Canadian Arctic on best practices to conserve energy and limit energy costs.
Feedback from the April 30 consultation will augment 191 interviews with residents, collected in May and June of 2013, said Merran Smith of the Yukon College research team.
“There’s 1,600 people in the community, so we weren’t able to capture everybody’s perspective back in June. Part of this was for people who didn’t have a chance to have an interview done last year, so they could provide more feedback,” Smith said.
“With the increase in power and heating fuel costs, it definitely struck a nerve in a lot of the residents,” McEachern said. “At the end of the line, residents really want to see ways to reduce costs for themselves.”
Even though construction of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay will not begin until this fall (to be completed in 2017), a few CHARS “pilot projects” are already under way.
The Yukon Research Centre’s community energy audit is one of them.
The community energy and emissions inventory has four goals, Smith said, to:
• inventory all energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in Cambridge Bay for 2012 – including fuel for heating, electricity, and gasoline and diesel for on- and off-road transportation, as well as jet fuel for transport in and out of the community;
• understand the community’s energy concerns and successes;
• Identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption in the community; and,
• Inform energy-use planning in the design of the CHARS facility in Cambridge Bay, as well as energy-use planning for Canadian Arctic communities at large.
Residents’ concern over the high cost of fuel and electricity is compounded by excessive or wasteful use of energy, Smith said.
In the case of heating for buildings, members of the community noted that permafrost commonly causes structures to shift, allowing gaps and cracks to be created in doors and windows.
“So you’re having to use more energy to heat your home, because some of it is just being wasted, and going straight through the door,” she said.
Hamlet residents said they need more information on how to limit energy use.
“People just felt they needed more education and awareness,” Smith said. “They just want to be able to ask questions about what is best, and get somebody who knows those answers, or who can dig them up.”
As Cambridge Bay and other communities of Nunavut grow, so will the need for energy efficiency. CHARS promises to launch many more research projects aimed at promoting this, MacEachern said.
These would include projects to develop new energy-generating technologies that could replace reliance on diesel fuel.
“If those studies are proven successful, then ultimately that technology can be integrated within the community, which would reduce costs,” he said.