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Focus on renewable energy
Leaders participate in forum in Fort Providence

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dehcho First Nations' leaders are showing increasing levels of interest in how renewable energies could help power their communities.

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Brandon Moses, a youth delegate with Pehdzeh Ki First Nation in Wrigley, looks at a demonstration model of solar collector tubes during the Dehcho Community Renewable Energy Forum in Fort Providence Feb. 5. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

First Nations' chiefs and Metis presidents along with their delegates were gathered in Fort Providence last week for the Dehcho winter leadership meeting. They devoted a day and a half of their time to participate in the Dehcho Community Renewable Energy Forum on Feb. 4 and 5.

The Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA), the Pembina Institute, based out of Yellowknife, and Dehcho First Nations (DFN) co-organized the forum. This was a chance for leaders and residents of different communities to connect with each other and share information about renewable energy programs they have in their communities and also discuss the potential for future projects they could jointly research or participate in, said Teresa Chilkowich, the Deh Cho community energy co-ordinator for AEA.

During the forum, participants were also able to talk with, connect and learn from staff with AEA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who have technical expertise on renewable energy technologies, she said. It was also a chance for those specialists to hear from the communities about the realities of setting up and maintaining a system.

"It's for people to have some insight of what it will mean to bring a renewable energy system to their community," Chilkowich said.

The forum specifically looked at solar and biomass technologies, which have been identified as the most effective renewable energies for the Deh Cho region. Technologies based on both types of energies were outlined by specialists and then the forum participants circulated between discussion tables, each with a focus on a different aspect of that technology.

"We had great participation by the community leaders and members," said Chilkowich.

"There were many engaged conversations."

President Marie Lafferty of the Fort Simpson Metis Nation said that she enjoyed the forum. It provided a lot of new information, but also brought back memories of technologies that used to be used including the wood burning boilers that heated the mission hospital in Fort Simpson in the 1950s, she said.

"It's a good awakening because we need to start thinking of new ways of generating power," Lafferty said.

"If people in the communities want to switch I think it is a good idea, but it will take money."

Lafferty said she is now considering the possibility of adding solar panels to the Nahendeh building in Fort Simpson, which the Fort Simpson Metis Nation is the partial owner of, if the other partners agree.

Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge of Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation in Fort Providence agreed that the forum was very effective. There was a good discussion on how to be sustainable and self-sufficient, he said.

From this forum, Bonnetrouge hopes another, larger one will be held, that more youth and technical people can be part of. Young people are excited and interested in energy and these technologies are providing opportunities to create jobs for residents, he said.

There is a parallel between these green technologies and the traditional lifestyle Dene people have and are continuing to live, said DFN Grand Chief Herb Norwegian.

Both are linked to keeping the Earth intact, he said. Norwegian said he also sees a link between DFN's process to be self-governing and the ability to be self-sufficient in energy. The forum provided an opportunity for people to learn about the technologies, like the solar panels they have seen around the region. Renewable energy is a good fit with a leadership meeting because it provides a balance to the more intense topics like the Dehcho Process, he said.

People, including elders, were engaged in the forum and wanted to find out more, said Norwegian.

And there will be more to come.

The goal is to use this forum as a springboard towards a larger, stand-alone event on renewable energy technologies, said Chilkowich. That event will have space for more community members to participate and will include a trade fair component with businesses on display who sell and install green energy systems, she said.

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