Indigenous energy advisor training begins in Yellowknife

Trainee energy advisors met in Yellowknife last week for the first in-person segment of a program aimed at preparing them to be energy efficiency experts.

The program, which runs until May, will train a dozen Indigenous community members to become energy advisors – professionals who provide homeowners with recommendations on energy-saving improvements.

The training encompasses stints of remote self-study as well as work in Yellowknife, Fort Simpson and Délı̨nę.


Gonezu Energy, a Fort Providence company, is running the program in partnership with the Akaitcho Territory Government, Dehcho First Nations, Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government and Tłı̨chǫ Government.

Jason Gollard, Gonezu Energy’s chief executive, said the motivation for starting the program was to expand opportunities for Indigenous residents of rural, isolated communities to train to become energy advisors

In doing so, the course may help address a shortage of energy advisors in the territory.

Certified energy advisors play a key role in the process by which homeowners access energy efficiency rebates through the federal Greener Homes Initiative. To apply for funds, residents must have a home energy evaluation – an assessment that provides information on how a home uses energy – conducted by a federally registered advisor.

In the NWT, Yellowknife-based not-for-profit the Arctic Energy Alliance is the only provider of home energy evaluations. As of last month, the AEA’s internal energy auditing staff was down to two people and the wait to get a home energy evaluation was about two years.


In communities with transportation barriers, none of which have their own energy advisors, Collard said the problem is magnified.

“Getting somebody from Yellowknife to go to those communities is hard,” he said.

But it’s not for a lack of interest. Collard received more than 100 applications for the training program.

“Initially, a lot of people were very skeptical that we’d even get 12 people to apply, let alone commit to a 15-week training program,” he said. “We were pleasantly surprised.”


The 12 people selected to take part in the training are from Délı̨nę, Fort Resolution, Yellowknife, Jean Marie River, Fort Simpson, West Point First Nation, Whatì and Behchokǫ̀.

“We’ve got a really, really amazing group of candidates that I’m just very thrilled to get to work with every day,” Collard said.

‘Get a job anywhere’

Although one of the program’s goals is to increase the number of energy advisors in the territory, Collard warned that the bar for passing the required testing is quite high.

Even if all the participants don’t become certified energy auditors, he said their background in energy efficiency is an asset in the trades. He said the territory is not only lacking in energy advisors, but also in contractors with the knowledge to act on energy-saving recommendations.

“The energy efficiency issue in the Northwest Territories is multifaceted,” he said.

Justin Nitsiza, from Whatì, said he hopes the course leads to a permanent job as an energy advisor, either at home or elsewhere. “They said we can get a job anywhere in Canada,” he said. Having worked in construction in the past, he said he has long wanted to learn about energy efficiency.

Ernest Rabesca, from Behchokǫ̀, also hopes the training leads to work, although he said he was driven to apply because of his love of learning. “I like being in a classroom setting,” he said, adding that anything to do with energy conservation and construction is of interest to him.

Several participants expressed a desire to use the knowledge in their communities or at home. Nicole Mantla, from Behchokǫ̀, said she wants to get involved in her community. “I know they’re going to be building homes in the future,” she said. She thinks the community will want to hire Tłı̨chǫ workers.

According to Delilah Lamouelle, also from Behchokǫ̀, having energy advisors come from down south makes no sense. “Now they’re giving us the opportunity to become energy advisors ourselves,” she said. She hopes to use the knowledge to reduce her home energy bills, too.

Boris Sangris, from Jean Marie River, said he is planning to build his own cabin this year. “If I can make it as energy-efficient as possible,” he said, “that’s good, right?” He also wants to assess the energy efficiency of buildings constructed since Jean Marie River flooded a few years ago.

So far, many participants said they’ve been enjoying the course. On Wednesday, they were learning in a classroom setting. But starting on Friday, Collard said they would be accompanying an instructor on two home energy audits in Ndılǫ. Throughout the program, he said, the team will work on homes in the other communities they visit.

Collard hopes that working on people’s homes throughout the training creates excitement about energy efficiency, all while providing benefits to the membership of Indigenous governments that are partners in the program.

This article is produced under a Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0 licence through the Wilfrid Laurier University Climate Change Journalism Fellowship.