IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 51

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recognized these energy needs and have established electrification programs at the national and
regional levels that aim at the gradual electrification of remote locations.
the world Bank estimates that 1.2 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity and
that interconnecting them with the existing electric grid is not feasible within the next five to ten
years. most of this population (93%) is located in Africa (587 million) and Asia (675 million), while
the remaining portion (7%) lives in latin America (31 million), the middle east (21 million), and
the developed countries. the ieA estimates that by 2030, 400 million more people can be given
access to electricity by extending existing national grids while the remaining 950 million can
potentially be electrified by means of individual household standalone or microgrid systems.
the population segment with no electricity access is only part of the remote energy problem
since currently some remote communities (rcs) have off-grid microgrids in place that generate electricity solely using fossil-fuel-based generators. magda moner-girona of the european
commission estimates that diesel engines in off-grid, remote locations have a combined installed
capacity of 10,000 mw globally (in addition to more than 10,000 small, off-grid hydro installations and more than a thousand solar photovoltaic or wind hybrid systems worldwide); the operating conditions of these units certainly differ depending on the local settings. diesel generators
are a widely implemented alternative because they are a reliable, relatively simple to maintain,
and mature technology. these factors tend to overcome the associated negative effects such as
their high operating costs, environmental impacts, and difficult fuel logistics. nevertheless, these
same drawbacks create significant opportunities for energy supply improvements that, if properly planned and implemented, can potentially bring further development to the communities
that currently use diesel generators.
in canada, approximately 200,000 people live in 280 communities across the country that, from
an electrical perspective, are classified as off-grid communities by Aboriginal Affairs and northern
development canada (AAndc) since they are not connected to the north American electric grid.
these northern and remote communities (n&rcs) currently satisfy their electricity needs mainly by
using diesel-based generators (see figure 1), although there are some important exceptions for which
hydropower is the primary energy source. for diesel-based generation, the electricity costs are higher
than those for the rest of canada and vary significantly depending on the communities' transportation
access, among other factors (see figure 2). for example, a community with year-round road access can
have an approximate electricity rate as low as c$0.45/kwh, while a location that is mainly accessible
by barge or plane can scale to c$0.80/kwh. for Arctic locations the rate can range from c$1.50/kwh
to c$2.50/kwh. for hydro-based generation, the rates in n&rcs range from c$0.15/kwh
to c$0.40/kwh, depending on the community's exact northern location and installed capacity. in
contrast, in the rest of canada, average electricity rates range from c$0.07/kwh to c$0.17/kwh,
depending the province; these variations are due to the significant differences in energy resources from
province to province.
the energy-related challenges of n&rcs encompass economic, technical, social, and environmental issues that need to be analyzed collectively. from an economic perspective, the high energy
rates are a direct consequence of the challenges that n&rcs currently deal with in supplying electricity to residents. operation of the energy generation and distribution infrastructure is expensive
since qualified technicians generally have to be flown
in to conduct preventive and corrective maintenance.
furthermore, some n&rcs have specific rate riders on
top of the base rates that fluctuate depending on the
cost of diesel fuel. road access for some n&rcs is
limited by winter roads whose serviceable life varies
every year and that are subject to weight restrictions
depending on ice conditions. from a technical perspective, energy generation technologies need to have
reasonably long operating lives and be able to withstand harsh operating conditions with only minimal numbers of visiting maintenance personnel
or only those who are available locally. from a social perspective, energy limitations can affect a
community's development as community electricity demand approaches the current system's generation capacity limits. finally, from an environmental perspective, diesel-based generation yields

Access to Electricity in
Canada's Northen and
Remote Communities

july/august 2014

ieee power & energy magazine

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014

IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover1
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover2
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 1
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - 2
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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover3
IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - July/August 2014 - Cover4
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