A program designed to help Northwest Territories businesses and communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions is “itching” to receive more applications.
The GHG Grant Program is funded until 2024 but wants applicants to come forward now to ensure time exists for projects to be completed and the money handed out.
The fund supports projects such as initiatives that move away from off-grid diesel or introduce newer forms of heating like biomass.
Community and Indigenous governments (or territorial government departments) can have up to 75 percent of their project’s costs covered by the grant. Businesses can cover 25 percent of their costs through the grant, rising to 40 percent if a non-profit applies.
Launched in 2018 with funding from the NWT government and Environment and Climate Change Canada, the program initially had almost $11 million available. Eric Chalker, who coordinates the program, said more than $6 million remains to be spent – including $3.5 million for governments and about $2.7m for industry.
“We have a fund of money left that we’re itching to find projects to spend it on,” Chalker said.
“Projects can take a year or two to install so, with two years left, our next application deadline is March 1. We’re hoping to get a flurry of applications to give approved applicants enough time.
“If prospective applicants apply and are approved, they will have two years to finish their project.”
Examples of eligible projects include building energy retrofits, biomass boilers and district heating, renewable energy for space or water heating, switching from diesel to liquefied natural gas to lower emissions in an off-grid location, initiatives that turn waste into energy, methane capture and use, and energy retrofits for mobile equipment.
“We understand there are a lot of technological and economical challenges when it comes to implementing clean growth initiatives. We try our best to support this fiscally in any way we can,” said Chalker.
Grants issued by the program have no maximum cap but the minimum project cost is $100,000.
Solar, batteries, and heating
Chalker said companies ranging in size from the territory’s largest mine operators to smaller-scale building owners are eligible.
At the Snowshoe Inn in Fort Providence, Jeff Philipp is an example of a successful applicant.
Philipp is developing an ambitious project that seeks to unify solar power and new forms of battery to decrease reliance on diesel.
“We generate our own power and if our power plants quit, we freeze up. It’s fairly critical infrastructure,” Philipp said.
“The GNWT were supportive of this because they see the value of these batteries within the diesel microgrids in the North, but they need to prove the technology – and that’s me.”
The territorial government says the Snowshoe Inn’s project cost $117,800, of which the maximum 25 percent, or $29,450, came from the GHG Grant Program.
In another case study, Yellowknife’s J&R Mechanical received $274,000 toward installation of a district heating system behind its business on the city’s Woolgar Avenue. The system is designed to supply heat to the GNWT’s warehouse on Byrne Road and can extend to other buildings in the area.
The territorial government estimates that project will remove up to 0.2 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
Overall, the GNWT is seeking to reduce the territory’s emissions by more than 200 kilotonnes by 2030. While a large chunk of that target rests on aspirational big-ticket infrastructure projects like expanding the Taltson hydro system, the GHG Grant Program is an example of the incremental approach being taken by the territory toward picking off other gains on a case-by-case basis.
“If applicants are creative and have technology we didn’t think of, reach out to us. We’re open-minded,” said Chalker.
“This is a new funding program with a department that doesn’t normally offer grant programs. Any time there’s a new program, it may need time to get the word out, to get the ball rolling.
“We’re looking to spend that money any way we can.”
‘Anything essential is eligible’
Departments and agencies of the territorial government are themselves eligible for the program.
Bruno Pereira, at the NWT Power Corporation, accessed nearly $900,000 in funding for a third LNG tank at Inuvik’s power plant. Inuvik is gradually moving away from diesel toward LNG and wind power.
“We were having problems funding it ourselves. A 75-percent contribution makes this project go for us,” Pereira said.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to obtain assets at a cost significantly lower than we would otherwise have been able to do – and in the long run, save our customers some money and reduce our greenhouse gas footprint.
“It took a bit of time for us to fill out the form but it wasn’t overly onerous. Once we submitted the application it was very easy, very painless.”
The program evaluates applications according to projected emissions reduction per dollar and feasibility. Applicants who aren’t sure how to quantify those things can access advice from the program team.
Funding from the program can be used to cover a range of costs.
“We want to support everything, whether it’s capital assets like biomass boilers or solar panels, or the cost of project managers and hiring contractors, or permitting fees,” said Chalker.
“Anything that can be deemed essential to the project is eligible.”
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