Clean Energy and Economic Development Solutions for Communities

Presenting Organization
Natural Resources Canada 

In recent years, many Indigenous communities from across Canada have developed and implemented a number of clean energy initiatives (e.g. solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric) to not only provide power to their communities but also create jobs and economic development opportunities. Throughout the process, communities faced a number of challenges and barriers, having to navigate an often-complex system to realize these projects.

Challenges and barriers common to many projects can be both internal to the community and from external sources. Internal examples include ensuring community buy-in, having a dedicated champion(s), insufficient capacity (both institutional and human), and lack of infrastructure. External sources of challenges include confusing and complex funding systems, aggressive/unsolicited consultants, lack of long-term support, and regulatory hurdles.

Through this workshop, participants will hear first-hand experiences from project leads from Indigenous communities which have successfully implemented clean energy or economic development activities, particularly in the forest sector. Presenters will highlight their unique experiences and identify lessons learned through their projects.

What Participants will Learn by Attending
Participants will gain a better understanding of

  • challenges and barriers Indigenous communities face on a regular basis when implementing a clean energy or economic development project.
  • how other communities were able to navigate complex regulatory and bureaucratic systems,
  • how to take this knowledge to identify ways to reduce these challenges and barriers for communities.


  • Andrée Doucet & Alison Milan, Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada
  • Tsay Keh Dene: Tim Hoy, Matthew Obee and Charity Rivard
  • Kwadacha: Chief Donny Vansomer
  • Wikwemikong: Nikki Manitowabi
  • Nihtat Gwichin: Grant Sullivan

Presenter Biographies

Andrée Doucet joined Natural Resources Canada as the Manager of the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities BioHeat Stream 7 months ago.  Prior to her joining the Canadian Forest Service she was with the Lands and Economic Development Sector of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada where she spent 7 years with the Strategic Partnerships Initiative, the last two of which were as Manager.  During her time at SPI, she worked with other Federal Departments on a multitude of files in various sectors, including clean energy.  Two of those were the BC Clean Energy Initiative led by Western Economic Diversification and NRCan’s Northern and Remote Forest Biomass Initiative.  Andrée joined CFS and the CERRC team because she wanted to work more closely with Indigenous communities in addressing their clean energy needs.


Alison Milan is a Policy Analyst with Indigenous Forestry and BioHeat Division of the Canadian Forest Service at NRCan. Before joining the federal public service last year, she worked as a research assistant in high arctic hydrology and as a teacher in various capacities. Alison holds a Master of Science degree in Geography from York University in Toronto.


Matt Obee, P.Eng has been involved in renewable energy projects through all stages of development, construction, and operation. He is currently working with Clean Energy Consulting and Tsay Keh Dene Nation to progress a community scale biomass energy project to displace the diesel generation and provide abundant thermal energy to decrease the communities reliance on propane. The project is a precedent setting initiative that will have transformational benefits to Tsay Keh Dene Nation and which will lay the foundation for similar projects to be implemented in remote communities across Canada.


Tim Hoy is the President of Clean Energy Consulting.  Tim grew up living and working in the forest industry in the BC interior.  This gave him an early appreciation for the value of a vibrant, sustainable forest industry as part of a sustainable economy in rural communities. Tim passionately believes that the transition to sustainability can be achieved when we implement solutions for waste, energy, food, and security at the community level.  Tsay Keh Dene and Clean Energy Consulting are partnered to make this a reality with a community scale sustainable energy system to replace diesel with biomass as the primary energy source for the community.  


Donald Vansomer was nominated for Chief of Kwadacha twelve years ago and still holds this position today.  Though his years of work in forestry, and his life-long connections to the outdoors, Donald has become interested in caring for the environment and the land that he grew up on.  It was through these interests the he decided that there had to be better and more sustainable ways to producing energy and hence became a leader and advocate for pursuing the Green energy initiative for Kwadacha.


Nikki Manitowabi is with the Wikwemikong Development Commission, the economic development arm of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve.  She is mandated to look for business opportunities and undertake assessments to ensure the economic  interests of the community are taken into consideration.  The Wikwemikong Development Commission has led the development and exploration of a pellet manufacturing plant in the Nairn centre.  She will be speaking about the bio heat pilot project her community has been involved with and in the process of implementation, creating a new area of domestic demand for pellets in Northern Ontario.  This initiative falls under one of many projects, in the community energy's plan.


Grant Sullivan is the President and Secretary of Nihtat Energy Ltd. (NEL) an Indigenous owned and operated company focused on developing and operating clean energy alternatives and energy efficiency projects in the Beaufort Delta region of Northwest Territories (NWT) as well as in other areas of northern Canada. Nihtat Energy Ltd., is a subsidiary of Nihtat Corporation.  Grant has lived in the Beaufort Delta region for the majority of his life and understands the need for knowledge, understanding and caution as we endeavor to not only protect our environment but to safely expand and support resource development in our Region.  He has seen the effects of climate change on lands, mountains, rivers and on traditional lifestyles, and believes that Clean Energy development will assist residents of small communities to understand the value, cost effectiveness and application of clean energy initiatives to meet their energy needs and in return enhance their commitment to the protection of the environment, land and resources.