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Status of Remote/Off-Grid Communities in Canada

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Author: Jimmy Royer, Natural Resources Canada

CETC number: 2013-118

Publication date: 2013-06-18


This report aims to provide a snapshot of the most up-to-date information on electricity production and consumption in off-grid/remote communities in Canada. This information has been provided by federal, provincial and territorial regional officers working closely with remote communities in Canada and from Statistic Canada surveys.

Information on energy production and uses in remote communities was originally collected and summarized in a report by Sigma Engineering in 1985 for Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). This report was then updated by CanmetENERGY in Varennes for the RETScreen program in 1999. RETScreen is a software program aimed to evaluate wind energy, small hydro, photovoltaic and biomass potential for electricity and heating production. It is used at the pre-feasibility level analysis stage of energy project developments in remote communities. The information collected for the program while not readily available to the general public has been used by different departments to assess electricity use in remote communities.

In 2009, a national off-grid subcommittee working group was created under the co-chairmanship of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)’s Environment and Renewable Resources and NRCan’s CanmetENERGY in Varennes to update this data and make it more readily available for analysis by AANDC and NRCan officers. The resulting Excel spreadsheet, shown in Annex A, has been reviewed and standardized so as to make it easily accessible through a new database and reporting format.

The current report provides a succinct analysis of the current data available. A cursory look at the spreadsheet in Annex A shows that there is still a lot of information missing from a majority of communities. Nonetheless, information that is available does provide a good overview of electricity production and consumption in off-grid remote communities of Canada. Furthermore, within this overview, regional analysis has been provided to inform the user of characteristics that are typical of each region, how electricity is used and what information is currently available.

From this work, a new database has been created that permits regional officers and selected individuals to input additional information for each community. It is the intent that this information will then be available to the public on the internet so that energy information on all remote communities in Canada can be readily updated and accessible to all. A description of the database and how it is intended to be used is provided in Annex B.

The terms “off-grid community” and “remote community” are used interchangeably within the context of this report for communities that fulfill the following criteria:

  1. Any community not currently connected to the North-American electrical grid nor to the piped natural gas network; and
  2. Is a permanent or long-term (5 years or more) settlement with at least 10 dwellings.

For more information about CanmetENERGY’s activities related to smart grid, visit the Smart grid section of the website.


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