Energy Resilience in Northern Communities

Regions: Gwich'in Settlement Area, North Slave Region

Tags: energy, renewable energy, social sciences, northern community, resilience

Principal Investigator: Keyte, Lawrence (1)
Licence Number: 15424
Organization: Trent University
Licenced Year(s): 2014
Issued: Feb 16, 2014
Project Team: Dr. Stephen Hill (Co-supervisor, Trent University)

Objective(s): To understand, through a single case study analysis, critical success factors which aid northern communities attempting to transfer from fossil fuel dependence into more locally-driven sustainable energy practices.

Project Description: This research project is designed to answer the following key research questions:
1) How can northern communities succeed in achieving greater energy resilience?
2) What factors influence (facilitate or challenge) northern communities moving forward with sustainable energy initiatives?
3) How might these facilitating factors be most effectively applied to other northern communities?

The objective of this research project is to understand, through a single case study analysis using interviews and document analysis, critical success factors which aid northern communities attempting to transfer from fossil fuel dependence into more locally-driven sustainable energy practices. The motivation driving the research is that success factors, once delineated, can be applied and adapted to help other northern communities attempting this transition.

This research uses a single case study approach, with Fort McPherson, NWT being the case study location. Fort McPherson was chosen as an example of success in the early stages of transition out of fossil fuel dependence. Not only has Fort McPherson recently installed wood chip boilers as a renewable energy source of district heat, but it is also developing a local sustainable wood chipping industry, using the local willow as fuel, to support it. Thus, initial inquiries with regional experts suggest that this case represents a positive example of an isolated northern community moving forward with sustainable energy initiatives.

Semi-structured interviews will be conducted, and will take place in two locations. The first location is Yellowknife, NT, where interviews will provide jurisdictional context to energy issues and decisions that affect communities in the Northwest Territories such as Fort McPherson. The second location is Fort McPherson itself, where interviews will provide insight into the desires and challenges that face the community regarding energy, and provide perspective on success factors that have led them to develop their own sustainable energy project, as well as the support needed for other communities to move forward.

All interviews will be approximately one hour in duration, and participants will be given the choice of their workplace, their home or another agreed upon location for the interview (town, office, etc.). Unless otherwise requested by the interviewee, only the researcher and interviewee will be present, and a translator if required, in order to respect the privacy of the participant.

Engagement in Fort McPherson and Yellowknife is planned to take place in three phases, the first being the initial data-gathering interviews, the second being follow-up visits and discussions for data verification and validation, and the third being a final community debriefing event to present the research findings, and have an open discussion to identify areas for action and future research.

Every effort will be made in the interviews, and while in the community, to engage the participants as active collaborators in the inquiry process. The researcher is striving to ensure this research is participatory, practical and collaborative, with the goal of having it enhance self-determination and quality of life for northern residents affected by energy poverty. As such, the participants’ voices will be honored; they will be encouraged to offer insight into interpretation and application of results, and will be encouraged to offer suggestions for further action.

Participants in this research will, by means of their involvement in semi-structured interviews, have the opportunity to express their opinions, hopes and concerns about the current energy scenario in their community. They will have the chance to provide insight as to opportunities and success factors for moving forward with sustainable energy, including institutional, economic and social factors. Participants will likewise have the opportunity to identify potential challenges or barriers to energy resilience that exist in the North. Identifying these challenges and opportunities may be helpful for future sustainable energy planning, both in their community and elsewhere.

Transcripts from the interviews will be made accessible to participants, via email or in hard copy in the mail, to allow participants to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of the comments they have shared.

Once the research is complete, all participants interviewed will have access to a plain language summary document including the purpose, research design, analysis, results and conclusion of the research. This document will include the researcher's contact information, and information about any related journal articles, conference presentations and Master's thesis resulting from their participation.

In addition, a debriefing meeting will be held, pending availability of funding, in both communities for those involved with the research. This will include a presentation of research findings, and an open discussion to identify areas for action. Reports will be sent to the communities and a teleconference or video conference meeting / presentation will be arranged with local representatives to discuss the final report from the project.


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from February 15, 2014 to May 15, 2014.