Supporting Indigenous Energy Efficiency

Webinar on November 25, 2022

With commitments to transition to a clean energy future through the Pan-Canadian Framework, energy efficiency has quickly become a major focus in Canada. But what does energy efficiency mean for Indigenous communities, and how do we ensure that they are not only part of, but leaders in the transition?

Bringing It Home is an Indigenous-led initiative to enable and implement healthy, energy-efficient homes and facilities in First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities. In this session, you will hear about what energy efficiency means from an Indigenous lens, what impacts it could have on communities, and how the Bringing It Home initiative is looking to support new projects and Indigenous leadership in this vital transition.


Corey Cote, Program Manager with Indigenous Clean Energy



Kelsey Brasil, Project Manager, Efficiency Canada



Corey Cote: Hello everyone. My name is Corey Cote. I am the program manager of the Bringing It Home Initiative at Indigenous Clean Energy.

We focus on energy efficiency in indigenous communities and promoting project work and those initiatives. I should introduce myself first. I’m located in Ottawa on my traditional, unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin territory.

I’m originally from Kind Zibi Anishanaabeg in Quebec, which is about two hours north. So yeah, today we’re going to be talking about indigenous energy efficiency. What are some of the challenges, the barriers what’s needed and where are we hoping to go?

So the first thing I want to talk about is setting some of the contexts for some of the challenges that exist and the realities for communities. So you can see here some of the challenges, implications and consequences. Things like insufficient funding poor building practices, no maintenance capacity at the community level.

It leads to things like you’re not able to build enough homes, which leads to housing shortages. Overcrowding can lead to moisture problems, quicker deterioration, increased stress in the home. And the other thing is unaffordability.

So it’s heat and energy. The bills are very tough for community members to deal with. It’s been a problem. And and these are the sorts of things that it’s not newly reported. These are things long known about in communities. And so it, this is just a cycle and it’s a cycle that’s been happening for years and years.

Homes are just not lasting long enough, and so we see energy efficiency as a way to break that cycle in order to create homes that are healthy, affordable, comfortable, and and energy efficient, of course. So what are the things that we need to make this happen? The first thing is we need investment.

And another discovery session that we did I think last year was with our Energy Foundation’s report. And in that report we estimate that there’s a total need of about $5.4 billion into indigenous energy efficiency for housing. This is a conservative low end of our estimate.

So that’s on top of money that’s needed to address core housing needs. And so this investment also needs to be done in a way that respects values, rights, and in a way that respects indigenous realities. The current system, there’s funding out there, a little bit here and there national and or federal and provincial.

Some things like the current systems have communities competing with one another for grants and funding, which is something that we need to see some change in. So this $5.4 billion will be for minor retrofits, major retrofits, and 1.75 billion dollars for new builds.

And that’s actually not to build these new homes. That’s to cover the added cost of making them efficient. So in our Energy Foundations report, we project a need of about 71,000 new homes across indigenous communities by 2030. And that’s another conservative projection. This is what we’re hoping to advance as well.

So I just wanna give an indigenous perspective on energy efficiency and the opportunity that exists within indigenous communities and why it’s such a good fit. And so I wanna begin with that context and the part it can play for communities. So in indigenous communities, there is a great opportunity because they’re ideally positioned for scale.

So in indigenous communities, because of the nature of how homes are owned and cared for in communities, homes are often managed by the community. It’s easier for large scale accessibility to homes. And and actually indigenous community homes are often the most in need of upgrades in better housing.

So they actually see project support from community members as well. So those two factors present a big opportunity. The other thing is shared challenge. So the work that’s happening in indigenous communities, they’re working through a lot of the same challenges as other indigenous communities, but also non-indigenous communities.

What we learned through an indigenous energy efficiency project can become an example, not just for other indigenous energy efficiency projects, but for the rest of Canada. We also see diversity. So there are communities in every province and territory in the country. So this work can take place pretty much everywhere in the country.

And it is a step towards national reconciliation and reflective of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Things like conservation, stewardship of the land, planning for future generations. These are values that align very closely with core traditional values. You can see the quote there on the right hand side from David Chartrand that speaks to the relationship between energy efficiency and community reality and vision.

Now, it’s important to note and emphasize actually that one of the things that we’ve heard over and over again is that communities have higher priority needs for their homes than them being energy efficient. So it’s important to remember that when we’re talking about energy efficiency, that we’re approaching housing with a view of it to achieve homes that are healthy, so improving the indoor air quality, preventing detrimental living conditions like mold issues deficient heating, draftiness preventing things that can make people sick and it can really save on healthcare costs.

So if we’re actually able to do a retrofit on a home and extend the life of the home by 10, 15, 20 years, that’s 10, 15, 20 more years that the community has a house. So they’re able to build up their housing stock and we can start addressing the housing shortage.

The data that I’ve seen from First Nations National Building Offers Association has its own reserve homes having a lifespan of as short as seven years. We’ve heard reports of materials and grief built homes being moldy before they’re even built. So that’s a big issue.

Culturally, homes can incorporate cultural design features which support tradition and indigenous ways of being. So things like intergenerational living spaces homes that respect the land. They incorporate cultural design Features.

The fourth thing here is affordability. Efficiency Canada and clean Energy Canada actually estimate the annual savings per household from energy efficiency at 114 to $151. But actually in indigenous communities where energy costs tend to be lower quality the estimated savings could actually be higher, somewhere between 250 to $1,200 per year.

There’s a huge opportunity for the bigger energy savings in communities. So it really has tangible impacts on addressing things like affordable heat and energy poverty which is a big issue.

So what are some of the barriers that we’re seeing to energy efficiency work in indigenous communities? Right now we’ve been doing research and writing report on those barriers for energy efficiency in indigenous communities. It’s in the final stages of its final draft, but I’ll give you a sneak peek of some of our findings here.

Costs, of course. So the upfront costs are the biggest barrier faced by community members. Many cases, it’s a decision of doing energy efficiency upgrades versus living costs, like doing groceries. People need to eat. That’s been a big barrier for community members. And why they’re not doing these measures.

Capacity. Housing staff in indigenous communities a lot of the time are already at full capacity. And their priority goes to just operating the day to day operations to keep housing running. So there’s limited capacity to take on this additional energy efficiency side of things.

Access to funding. So funding and reporting processes are reported to be complicated and burdensome for members and for communities to pursue. And it’s adding to the real capacity issue that we’re seeing. So it adds and piles on there.

Fourthly, we have awareness and knowledge. So there’s a lack of awareness in communities about energy efficiency. Where do you begin? What measures do you take? How do you move forward with a project?

And lastly, you have partners and contractors. There’s a lack of qualified contractors in general. There’s even less who have experience working with indigenous communities.

So there’s a lot of difficulty building trust for communities. I’ll speak a little bit about the initiative bringing it home. We’re an indigenous led initiative to enable and implement healthy energy efficient homes and facilities in First Nation Metis and Inuit communities. Everything that we’re doing within bringing it home is about: how do we scale up energy efficiency initiatives? How can we do community scale energy efficiency and replicate that in indigenous communities across Canada? We’ve been working with guide communities through their energy efficiency project work and forwarding helping to guide their initiatives.

We’re building an online resource library, which you can visit at We’re compiling resources, tools, guides, templates to support indigenous energy efficiency project work. We’ve received funding to train indigenous energy advisors, which we’re doing on a regional basis to maximize our reach.

And the newest thing, which I’ll touch on a little bit later, is the project accelerator program that we’re creating and developing at the moment, and hopefully we’ll be launching soon. All, so I’ll talk quickly about those guide community projects that we’ve been supporting. And the impacts that they’ve had through their projects. There was a joint proposal between three of the guide communities which we work with to the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative.

And they got funding to do some high performance builds in the community. So in Red Rock on the top left there it’s a net zero energy Ready safe House and Community Center for families escaping harm. So it’s a safe house for that. And then it’s building their community skills and knowledge, most importantly, so that they can later transfer to their housing.

So any of the policies that they put in place the actual on the ground contractors who are doing the builds, they’re taking this knowledge and that’s later applicable to their general housing. In fishing Lake Metis settlement, they’re forwarding plans for triplex that supports intergenerational living. It’s also going to be net zero energy ready. It has a middle unit for elders with two family units on each end and the unit is designed with elements of Metis culture in mind.

And then lastly in AZA these are plans for their first ever homes on their new reserved land. And that will become the model for the hundred homes to come. So they’re starting with six and they are going to be built to net zero ready as well.

So these building standards are really forwarding how these communities do housing. And they’re taking these learnings and takeaways and through this project, we’re gonna applying it to their general housing. So I’ll touch on the project accelerator and where we’re going with bringing it home.

We’ve taken our learnings from our work with the guide communities and the best practices, lessons learned that they’re facing, but with some of the covid shutdowns and other slowdowns things weren’t happening quick enough. So to scale and speed up our efforts, we got proactive and now we are developing a national project accelerator program to support indigenous energy efficiency. The Project Accelerator at its core is a capacity building program, and it’s designed to support the startup and implementation of new community scale projects.

It is going to offer a blend of virtual and in-person learning that is going to be delivered by indigenous experts, leaders, organizations, people with project experience, but also indigenous organizations and industry experts. It’s going to take place over 18 months and we’re actually hoping to offer project grants as well that will support project developments and support like the communities participating in the program developing their projects. And we actually will incorporate mentorship as well. So at ICE we have a mentorship program that connects participants across all of our programming with technical mentors, expertise and people who can, who have that ex hard project experience that can guide them through as our participants are developing their project.

So using the knowledge gained from the program, we want communities to develop a project for their community. So one of the impacts from the project accelerator that we’re hoping to see is building that capacity for communities to take charge and lead their own energy efficiency projects.

We want to improve the literacy and knowledge of financing and energy efficiency. And project financing especially. We wanna create an understanding of healthy homes, healthy energy use and those sorts of things. How to create long term change. So we don’t want these to be one off projects. We want these to be long term projects. These could be multi-year projects, but we also wanna see that the energy efficiency uptake is for the long term. How do you update your housing policies to incorporate energy efficiency so that future generations will benefit from this work.

We want to establish meaningful partnerships. So that could be with governments, could be with other indigenous communities, could be with funders, provinces. We want utilities. We want to create that sort of environment that communities have a support system that supports their initiatives and building community action plans. That’s a given with the project. We want communities to better understand what needs to be done in their community, where they want to go, and how do they get there. And most importantly, the main goal of the program is for each community to come out at the end with an energy efficiency project underway that’s ready for financing to approach funding.

So that’s the main goal of the program. We’re hoping to launch the project accelerator here in the very near future. And our timelines have it starting in the new year here. It is built around the indigenous energy efficiency enabling environment. So these are the six key components that we see and we’ve identified with speaking with indigenous leaders, experts, industry experts, indigenous organizations.

These six components are where capacity needs to be built. For energy efficiency to be ingrained in communities for the long term. So you need financing knowledge. You need asset management, you need all of these. This is where we’re building capacity around.

And this is actually the energy efficiency project process. So this is what an energy efficiency project essentially looks like. They’re not always linear like this. This is just how I organized it. But these are the different stages of a project. And some communities may be coming into our project accelerator with some of this already done.

They’ll be at different stages. It’s quite open for that. And doesn’t have to be in this order, but these are generally the different stages that a project goes through from start to finish. So that is really what we’re building that project accelerator around is these six components and then laying out the different stages and to help communities through this.

So that’s it about that. You can follow us. We’re on all of the social medias at indigenous clean energy. Or you can visit our website, We also have the, which I mentioned earlier, which is like a Facebook for clean energy. It’s free to use, free to sign up.

We call it a Facebook. We won’t steal your data. Yeah, I mean it’s a space for communities to share their work. Experts can come in, share, we share news reports, all sorts of things go on there. It’s great. So I do encourage you to sign up to that. But as far as my presentation goes, that’s where I’ll leave you and if there are any questions, we can open the floor.

Kelsey Brasil: Yeah. Great. Thanks so much Corey. And I did share the ICE network link in the chat there. You’re right, there’s so many fantastic resources there. Just wanna remind everyone that we do record these sessions and post them on our website. So if you’re looking to refer back to this you can do so by visiting our website and looking at the events archive tab.

So Janice is asking for the net zero demonstration homes. What is the energy source? Are there solar panels or wind turbines nearby?

Corey Cote: Those homes will be starting off as net zero energy ready. So they won’t actually have the solar panels installed, but that is something that yeah, eventually the community wants to get where there’s rooftop solar available and so all of the hookups are going to be ready and built in, it’s just going to be like that funding will come a little bit later. And their focus is getting the homes built first.

Kelsey Brasil: That’s great. Thank you. David Wilson has a question. How can ICE promote indigenous uptake of HVAC expertise that will be required to support heat pumps, that will have to be part of net zero in remote communities?

Corey Cote: Yeah, no, that’s another great question. My director he bought a house and he was getting a heat pump installed and he had to go through three contractors before we found one that knew what they were talking about. And so it’s definitely an issue and something that we’re looking at.

I don’t have an easy answer for that one, unfortunately. It’s something that needs to happen not just for indigenous communities, but in general in Canada. There’s not enough reliable contractors out there and people who do HVAC work at the moment when it comes to efficient buildings and an efficient infrastructure.

Wish I had an answer for you on that one, but what we’re doing is, trying to create a database of companies who do this sort of work so that if community does come to us and they need some guidance, we can maybe point them in the right direction.

Kelsey Brasil: That’s great. Some great thoughts on that. Thank you. Christie in the chats asking how do water and sewer issues come into the planning process?

Corey Cote: That’s another good point. And Yeah in terms of efficiency, what I can say is that for the homes in AZA that’s a lot of the community side planning, but like for the homes themselves, we’re centralizing, and this is like a cost saving measure. But in terms of water and sewer issues, when I think about that, we think about it from a maintenance point of view.

Just education for community members on how to properly use water and take care Like make sure that there’s no leaky taps. Make sure that they’re using water efficiently. Because that’s something that when people think about efficiency, they think energy and they don’t realize like how expensive it is for water treatment and those sorts of things.

The water and sewer issues will be on a community to community basis. Their operations are all a bit different, the infrastructure that they have, making sure that is incorporated into the planning process. Again, I don’t have a one size fits all answer here, but that is something that we’re aware of and that we’re going to take into account in the project accelerator. And it’s going to be part of the curriculum.

Kelsey Brasil: Thanks Corey. Moving over to Jesse Rowe’s question. Have you looked at how energy efficiency work can integrate with existing building management and maintenance processes in First Nation communities?

Corey Cote: Yeah, for sure. And so I’ll say in a lot of communities, maintenance processes are very much lacking. So these projects that we’re hoping to get started is a good entryway into that sort of education. Does the community have a maintenance plan in place already?

If not, how do we get there? Are community members aware of the maintenance that needs to happen in their homes? If not, how do we provide that sort of education? Is there a clear definition of who’s responsible for what maintenance? Is it the community responsible for X, Y, and Z or is that the responsibility of the home occupant?

It is very different in from community to community. Like every community is so unique and that’s one of the main like things that we need to keep in mind. But yeah, that is something that we are keeping in mind. There’s a community that we’ve worked with that has installed heat pumps on like a hundred plus community homes. But when you need to hire some guy from Vancouver to come and do the maintenance it’s not really the best system. So it’s like that’s how that sort of employment and knowledge at the community level is important to build up and something that we are looking at.

Kelsey Brasil: Thank you. Corey, can you tell us particularly about heat and energy recovery ventilator equipment needs in the northern communities?

Corey Cote: Yeah, it’s a huge need in most communities, not just northern communities. When it comes to efficient homes, like the rule of thumb is you you build it tight and you ventilate it, right?

So you’re controlling all of the airflow in the home. It’s a controlled airflow. And so you’re really maximizing on the heat that stays in the home and the cooling as well. When you want it, when you need it. That is a huge need across a lot of communities.

Some communities are moving towards them, but then there’s also the education aspect. We’ve spoken with communities where they install these HRVs and this equipment, but then the home occupant’s not educated on how to use it. And to them, all they feel is like cold air coming into the home.

So they actually plugged it up with a blanket and they’re not getting that clean air circulated into the home. The first need is, we need to get more available to homeowners, and then we need that education piece as well on like how to properly use it and maintain it.

Kelsey Brasil: Yeah, great point about also the homeowner education. I think that’s always an important piece. Matthew here is asking: how will indoor air quality be prioritized, managed, and measured in the retrofits and new homes?

Corey Cote: Yeah. So with these projects that we’re working towards, like the communities will make their own priorities.

So whether their main focus is reducing GHG emissions, improving the indoor health, That’s a tough thing to measure. And as far as I know, I’ve done some research recently on if it’s quantifiable, if anyone’s doing any work on quantifying health improvements and energy efficiency in Canada.

Honestly, there’s not a ton. So that is something that we are going to be looking to do in terms of forecasting impacts for communities when they’re doing these retrofits. But at the moment, there’s not a lot of data within Canada. And if anyone on the line knows of a reporter or knows of some sort of data, please feel free to share it. I’m always looking for new reports, new data sets and things like that. I know that’s something that’s in terms of making it quantifiable, we’ll need to figure out a way and to do that. But it’s not a lot in Canada. I know in the UK they fund energy efficiencies through their health department actually because of the healthcare costs that they’ve seen.

So I’ve been looking a little bit into that. So if you’re interested in that, I would point you in that direction.

Kelsey Brasil: Thank you. Ari’s question here says: great presentation, any thoughts on dealing with the funding silos within the federal government, for example, between I S C and NRCan?

Corey Cote: Yeah. Other than all community level work and projects that we’re working on within bringing it home, the other side of things and the bigger picture of things is we’re working to improve the environment around energy efficiency, finance support and funding and what’s out there right now.

Obviously you saw that number at the beginning of my presentation. 5.4 billion is needed. That might not all come from government funding. Not to say government funding is bad. If it’s available we’ll take more. But we’re actually looking at improving financing opportunities as well to supplement those funding silos.

But yeah, I mean connecting with governments, utilities, organizations who have funding and money to make investments into this sort of work is something that we’re doing within the program and working towards. And really, because if this is where Canada wants to go, they’re going to need to have the support system to move forward. That’s something that we’re really working towards.

Kelsey Brasil: Great. Lee’s asking, how many communities are dependent on diesel for energy?

Corey Cote: How many? Put me on the spot here, but off the top, I don’t know. Most northern communities though I can say that there’s a lot on diesel, any remote northern community other than the ones that are now getting off of diesel, like through programs like the Indigenous Off Diesel Initiative which is helping to get communities off diesel in the north. There’s a lot. There’s way too much. I wish I had a number for you. I can find that number for you later on, but yeah, right now I don’t have that.

Kelsey Brasil: No worries. Thank you. I know we’ve shared in the chat an interesting report on the impact of cold temperatures for those of you who wanna check that out. Last question for today, Corey. I’m just wondering if you could share one last message with everyone here today. What are you hoping that people take away from your presentation?

Corey Cote: Yeah. Within bringing it home, everything we do it in the light of collaboration sharing, networking. We mentioned those funding silos. We don’t want these projects to be done in silos either. Like we, we want to make sure that we’re sharing our successes we’re sharing our work, our project, our challenges, how we’re overcoming these challenges.

Like it’s gotta be done in a way where people are working together. Because it’s to do with climate energy reductions. This is something that’s affecting everyone. It’s not just indigenous communities, it’s not just non-indigenous communities. It’s it’s all one big system.

Yeah, collaborate, share if you like, share solutions with each with one another. Just share network with each other because yeah, that’s what we’re trying to do within bringing it home. The communities that we work with, the guide communities they meet every month or two they’re connecting with one another, sharing successes talking about their projects and where they want to go, and they’re like really bouncing ideas off of one another. And within bringing it home that’s really what we’re all about. Again, that resource library that we put together, we’re just trying to see what’s out there existing. Where there’s gaps, we’ll develop it. But yeah, it’s really about creating that environment of support for one another.


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