Remote & Indigenous Communities

Canada's Indigenous, northern, and remote communities

More than 280 communities in Canada–home to about 200,000 people–are not connected to the national electric grid and natural gas distribution pipeline systems that provide heat and light to homes and businesses across the country. The remoteness of these communities ranges from fly-in only to accessible by road–some gravel, some seasonally formed by ice.

Approximately one-third of these off-grid communities, accounting for over 100,000 residents, is in Canada’s northern territories. The remaining two-thirds of communities are located in every other province except the Maritimes provinces.


Places with potential

When energy infrastructure was erected many years ago in remote communities, diesel was the main option because it was the most economical at the time. Now, years later, many of these Indigenous and remote communities must continue to rely on aging diesel infrastructure for heating and power generation.

Diesel represents a variety of environmental, economic, technical, and social challenges, including:

  • Local air and noise pollution, and the risks of fuel spills/ leaks. Diesel spills represent about $2.3 million in remediation costs .
  • Excessive cost of energy, supply issues, and capacity constraints all of which deter new business development and limit future economic opportunities.
  • Significant numbers of aging generating plants operating past their designed service life, increasing reliability challenges and safety issues in cold remote locations.

A solar-propane hybrid energy system was installed in the remote First Nations community, Xeni Gwet’in in British Columbia’s Nemiah Valley, helping residents reduce their reliance on diesel-generated power.

Propane: the energy of choice to replace diesel fuel

There is an immediate opportunity to reduce GHG emissions in Indigenous, northern, and remote communities with solar and wind energy systems supported by low-emission propane. Implementing a hybrid energy structure provides communities with low-emission energy that is reliable – even when the sun is not shining.

For example, due to its extreme latitude, Resolute Bay experiences polar day (also known as the “midnight sun”) during the summer and polar night during the winter when the sun does not shine at all. This means that during the summer months solar would work well but would be useless in the winter months. This dramatic difference in levels of sunlight between summer and winter months does not just affect the extreme north, but also affects communities in Canada’s lower latitudes as well.

Propane is an excellent backup energy to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

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Immediately available

While other energy options require largescale infrastructure spending or further technological development, propane is ready to go today.

Delivered anywhere in Canada

Propane is unique compared to other alterative or low-emission energy sources – it can be delivered anywhere in Canada. Propane is more affordable than diesel and propane infrastructure in Canada is well developed, with tremendous capacity to produce and deliver an abundant supply that is highly portable via truck, rail, and pipeline across Canada. Today, propane is transported to, and used in, every corner of the country.

Plays well with others

Combining propane with intermittent solar and wind systems to create a hybrid energy model provides communities with low-emission energy that is reliable. It is a realistic approach for continuous, reliable power supply. Propane is a low-carbon alternative energy source that produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than most other energy sources. And unlike diesel, propane does not contaminant the ground if there is a spill or a leak.

Meets unique local needs

The propane industry understands their customers’ unique needs and the environmental and physical challenges of delivering to remote areas. They understand the uniqueness of the culture, history and associated titles and rights of their customers in Indigenous, northern, and remote communities. Building a rapport and developing relationships with these communities is key to success.

The propane industry also understands the importance of supporting local business development and developing collaborative relationships with local agents. Staff live in and serve local communities to provide engagement at the local level. Capacity building programs are also implemented to allow more opportunity for people within the communities they serve to gain education, training, and mentoring.

Working in partnership with Indigenous, northern, and remote communities, the propane industry can effect real change in reducing GHGs, providing for healthier and more prosperous communities.

Overview of Canada’s remote communities

There are 170 Aboriginal communities (First Nations, Innu, Inuit, or Metis) with about 126,861 people living in these sites (green dots) and 122 communities are cities, villages, or commercial outposts that are predominately non-Aboriginals (white dots) with about 67,420 people living in them.
Source: Natural Resources Canada

A clean energy future

Economic development in remote communities and investment that drives a healthy economy are hindered by the lack of infrastructure and the cost of doing business. The sea change will be partnerships between the government, suppliers, and the transportation industry to realize the goal of a cleaner energy future.

Working in partnership with Indigenous, northern, and remote communities, the propane industry can effect real change in reducing GHGs, providing for healthier and more prosperous communities.

Propane is part of the solution – it is a low-emission energy source produced in Canada and ready to go today.