I made many new island connections at this year’s Arctic Circle assembly which took place from 19 to 21 October in Reykjavik, Iceland. Taking part in a session comparing Scotland and Arctic Canada’s challenges and opportunities in the journey to Net Zero certainly opened my eyes to the challenges of greening some of the most northern islands in the planet.
I had been asked by the Scottish government to provide the example of the island where l live – the isle of Eigg on the West coast of Scotland – as it is enjoying 93% renewable energy through the use of solar, hydro and wind power. It is also advancing its transition agenda, having recently multiplied its source of solar power from 30 KW to 170 KW, thanks to the Scottish government’s Community and Renewable energy Scheme (CARES) programme! Its particularity is also that its mainland type stand-alone grid – Eigg is an unconnected island – is run by the island’s own electric company, a subsidiary company of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, the charitable community organisation that owns Eigg.
This indeed was of special interest to the government of Nunavut in Arctic Canada as they are currently looking at the challenge of providing fossil fuel free power through their REMIROCaN project to the isolated communities on their territory which are entirely dependant on diesel generators.
Nunavut – ’our land’ in the Inuit language – is the largest and northernmost territory of Canada. The creation of Nunavut in 1993, which provided the Inuit with an independent government, resulted in the first major change to the Canada’s political map in since 1949. Comprising most of the Arctic Archipelago, its vast territory makes it the North America’s second largest after Greenland. Baffin Island where the capital Iqaluit is situated, Ellesmere Island to the north, Victoria Islands in the west and all the islands in Hudson, James and Ungava bays are the least densely populated major country sub-division in the world, with a population of just under 40.000.
With plenty of sunlight in the summer months, the challenge for Nunavut is to deal with the long arctic winter and weather conditions to provide heat and power to the isolated cabins which are the Inuit’s main habitat. Thus the REMIROCan project aims to act in three key areas:
- Feasibility assessments and technological evaluations for three key types of house-scale renewable energy systems well-suited to Inuit Nunangat;
- Integration and performance evaluation of house-scale renewable energy systems and energy storage with a demonstration house in Iqaluit, Nunavut;
- Development of remedies to barriers of renewable energy adoption in Inuit Nunangat and advancement of socio-economic development.
The project is very much in its first phase of development but provides hopes of a much better future for the people of Nunavut. Inuits, very much like all other indigenous Arctic people, were well represented at the event. The Arctic People’s voice was loud and clear: the Arctic is warming 4 times faster than the rest of the planet. The Arctic is crucial to regulating the world’s climate and sustaining life on earth and if the Artic is in crisis, then our planet is in crisis. With COP 28 fast approaching, the message from the Clean Arctic Alliance is: “NOW is the TIME to ACT. “
Article written by: Camille Dressler – Chair, Scottish islands Federation, and Vice-Chair, European Small islands Federation