Community Energy Planning for First Nations: The Fundamentals
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
A Community Energy Plan is a comprehensive long-term strategy for the improvement of understanding around energy, establishing energy baseline data, and enhancing aggregate energy efficiency. An effective plan will aid in the reduction of electricity consumption and assist a community in determining opportunities for energy solutions.
A Community Energy Plan should provide the power to understand what a First Nation community wants as opposed to having it be told what it needs.
Working to design one requires grassroots data collection covering the following:
· How much energy a community needs/uses
· How much energy a community generates
· Knowledge of the various types of energy a community uses
· Knowledge of the types of energy a community supports
· Financial comfort limits of First Nation Membership as they pertain to spending on energy
· Comfort level in supporting the displacement of certain natural resources with mitigation
In First Nation administration, gleaning this data will support the energy solution development process and give the community power over potential salespeople, third-party planners, and community energy-related decisions. In turn, the community will be in a better position to define its energy issues in real terms as well as its willingness to pursue the necessary solutions.
Why is a Community Energy Plan important for a First Nation?
Such data and detail in a planning document will lead the community to reduce costs for administration as well as membership, and increase the overall understanding about energy by community members of all ages. With this document in place, an Indigenous community can easily identify possible solutions to problematic areas concerning power while also sourcing potential commercial opportunities in the energy sector – which could also lead to effective job creation.
Where do you start?
As is most often the case, an incident, or a series of them, may highlight a need for community energy management. These could include such things as a need for climate change adaptation, a potential investment in renewables, or simply several complaints from First Nation Members regarding their monthly energy costs.
To get the ball rolling, consider a comprehensive community engagement exercise. Encourage the evaluation of energy consumption data and initiate steps to ensure membership is open to the concept and fully aware that this process is a necessary step. Planning for the future requires information around community desires, existing energy opportunities, as well as historical usage and the forms of energy being used. With this detail, a path to implementable solutions can be developed to guide the community over time.
What should you expect from a First Nation Community Energy Plan?
The key takeaway from the baseline data is how much a community is deviating (either positively or negatively,) from a given data point over time. This allows the community to evaluate the success (or failure,) of their Community Energy Plan objectives over time.
What questions may arise in the process?
Once a First Nation determines to develop a Community Energy Plan, four key questions may be asked:
1. How long does it take?
2. What does it cost to produce it?
3. How will we pay for it?
4. What is in it?
The answers to each of these questions will vary by First Nation depending on such things as community size, location, the amount of available information, and even the “personality” of the First Nation (its willingness to participate and be open to issue mitigation and solution development).
Is there funding available to develop a First Nation Community Energy Plan?
In Ontario, The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator,) manages the ICEP (Indigenous Community Energy Plan) program through which successful applicants can obtain funding for the development of a new community energy plan. Those wishing to update an existing plan can apply for a maximum of $25,000 in assistance to do so.
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