Northern Saskatchewan village hopes federal funding will mean alternatives to diesel power

The federal government recently gave $500,000 to Kinoosao, a remote Indigenous community of around 25 people, to explore using green alternatives to diesel fuel.

Tyler Jobb, a contractor working on the project, says sustainable technology helps preserve traditional Indigenous customs and lowers the cost of living in the north.

“Our way of life is important to us and I think it’s important to take care of how we live,” he said, speaking to Global News in Saskatoon.

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Kinoosao is approximately 800 km directly northeast of Saskatoon, but the only road into the remote village comes from Manitoba. A trip from Lynn Lake, about 100 km away, takes two hours, residents told Global News, because the road is in such bad condition.

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It’s not connected to any power grid and so residents depend on diesel or propane, which means they depend their fuel being delivered.

“You pre-order and then trucks will come depending on if the roads are safe,” Denise Morash said.

Speaking on the phone from Kinoosao, she told Global News she’d feel safer with renewable energy.

She’s currently staying at a nearby fishing lodge until the propane pipes in her house can be repaired.

All of her appliances run on propane and a pipe recently broke, resulting in her needing medical attention for carbon monoxide poisoning.

“We were inhaling those (fumes) for a few weeks until I was admitted to emergency.”

Beyond safety, she said having some form of renewable energy available to residents would improve the quality of life and lower the cost of living.

Kinoosao is so far from anything else, she said, fruit and vegetables are expensive, never mind fuel.

She said she’s excited for the possibility of a greener future.

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The lodge she and her family are staying in belongs to Floyd Olson. He said his business wouldn’t be able to access the green power, where it to be built.

Even though he’s about one kilometre away from a power grid, he said he was told it would cost $40,000 to connect.

So instead he uses generators and is “just going through like a 30 litres per day,” he said, speaking to Global News on the phone.

He said it was expensive and bad for the environment but he has no alternative.

He also thinks the Natural Resources Canada program is a good idea.

The “Indigenous off-diesel initiative” began Feb 2019. Officials selected 14 Indigenous communities and contractors or representatives associate with them to work towards green alternatives.

The program recently progressed to the second phase and the communities received half a million dollars to develop an energy plan with community members and to identity and receive training needed for the project.

Jobb, who lives in Southend, about 100 km away from Kinoosao across Reindeer Lake, said he hopes the initiative inspires other programs that advance green technology in order to preserve tradition.

The next phase, in which specific projects are designed, is scheduled to begin in March.

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