Wah-ila-toos applicant guide   

Table of contents

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Initiative objectives

3.0 Areas of focus for funding

4.0 Eligibility

5.0 Application and assessment process

6.0 Definitions

7.0 Other information

1.0 Introduction

The transition to clean energy continues to be an important topic to Indigenous communities and the Government of Canada as we work together toward reconciliation. In 2021, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $300 million over six years to support clean energy projects that can advance Indigenous-led climate action, support local economic development and create skilled jobs while reducing pollution and improving air quality.

Wah-ila-toos, the gifted name to the Clean Energy in Indigenous, Rural, and Remote Communities initiative, is a more streamlined approach to access federal programs and resources. It features a “no wrong door” approach for Indigenous, Rural, and Remote Communities seeking to transition from fossil fuel reliance for electricity and heat towards more energy efficient and renewable energy options. Funding will be administered by Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan’s Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities (CERRC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s (CIRNAC’s) Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity (Northern REACHE) programs, with support from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Infrastructure Canada (INFC), and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

Wah-ila-toos strives to advance reconciliation and Indigenous-led self-determination based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership in alignment with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The federal government has been called upon to fully adopt and implement UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation and there are several Articles from the declaration that can be applied when working with clean energy projects in Indigenous, Rural, and Remote CommunitiesFootnote 1. Further, Wah-ila-toos strives to implement its programming in a manner that is consistent with the Calls for Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Calls for Justice of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry. In addition to UNDRIP, Wah-ila-toos programming aims to support projects that also uphold the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Footnote 2 These guidance documents have influenced the eligibility and assessment criteria found within this applicant guide. Where appropriate, applicants are encouraged to consider and provide evidence of how their projects will advance UNDRIP and SDGs. 

2.0 Initiative objectives

Applicants are encouraged to demonstrate how their project enables an Indigenous, Northern, Rural or Remote Community to meet one or more of the following objectives:

3.0 Areas of focus for funding

4.0 Eligibility

4.1 Eligible recipients

4.2 Eligible activities

4.2.1 Eligible activities

In the table below, Northern, rural, and remote communities can be Indigenous or non-Indigenous, however programming is designed to support Indigenous-led and partnered projects.

Table 1. Eligible activities

Eligible activities Focused location of activities
Capacity building
  • Activities that build capacity within communities, governments, or organizations to strengthen or develop their opportunity for future renewable energy, energy efficiency, grid modernization, heating, or biomass supply chain projects.
  • Training, skills, and curriculum development to improve energy literacy.
  • Supporting the employment of community energy coordinators, managers, and/or advisors.
  • Building, community, or regional energy planning.
  • Workshops, events, and engagement for knowledge dissemination on clean energy.
Indigenous, rural or remote community
Energy efficiency
  • Energy efficiency projects focusing on proven practices and technologies, including heat recovery, efficient lighting, controls and sensors, community building benchmarking and recommissioning, and community building optimization, etc.
Northern remote community
Energy efficiency
  • Energy efficiency and demand-side management pilot projects that help reduce energy usage, such as a small-scale building retrofit in a community.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades are eligible when associated with an electricity or heating demonstration or deployment project.
Remote community
Project planning
  • Feasibility studies to evaluate renewables for electricity and/or heating including energy efficiency improvement opportunities in community buildings.
  • Resource assessment, design/engineering, environmental assessments, stakeholder engagement, etc.
Remote community
Project planning
  • Evaluation and feasibility studies of forest-based biomass feedstock resources and supply chains.
Rural or remote community, remote industrial site
Deployment - electricity
  • Deployment of commercially available renewable energy generation - solar photovoltaics, on-shore and off-shore wind turbines and hydroelectricity
  • As part of a renewable energy generation system:
    • Integration of energy storage and auxiliary microgrid control systems
    • Energy efficiency, grid modernization and/or distribution system upgrades.
Remote community, remote industrial site
Deployment – heating
  • Deployment of wood-fueled biomass heating and district heating systems and combined heat and power technology to reduce fossil fuel use.
  • Deployment of geothermal (ground-source), water-source and advanced air-source heat pump systems.
  • Deployment of solar thermal energy systems.
  • Energy efficiency components of heating projects.
Rural and remote community, remote industrial site
Research, development, and related science activities (RSA) – electricity and/or heatingFootnote 3
  • Improving the environmental and/or economic performance of a technology, system or process to enable adoption of clean energy by remote communities.
  • Monitoring and optimization of existing systems.
  • Assessment of the impacts of net zero emission targets on existing diesel microgrid infrastructure.
  • RSA would be initiatives that inform policies, codes and standards, and regulations.
Rural and remote community, remote industrial site
Demonstration - electricity and (or) heating
  • The installation, operation and evaluation of the performance of various innovative renewable energy generation technologies (e.g. tidal, wave, run-of-river hydro, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind, geothermal, waste-to-heat, biomass heating or combined heat and power), energy efficiency, energy storage and/or controls on a remote diesel microgrid.
  • The engineering, design and permitting of a permanent installation including elements of a front-end engineering design (FEED) study, if required, as part of a demonstration.
  • Evaluating the potential of local green hydrogen production, distribution, storage and end-use for a particular region.
  • The permanent (normal life of equipment) installation of a pre-commercial technology to operate in its intended environment.
Rural or remote community, remote industrial site

4.3 Eligible expenditures

Eligible expenditures must be directly related to and necessary for the recipient to carry out an approved project or activity that will lead to the expected results. Eligible costs may include:

  • Salaries and benefits for employees on the payroll of the recipient organization, for actual time spent on the project.
  • Overhead expenditures, directly related to the conduct of the project, such as office operating expenses, are limited to fifteen percent (15%) of total eligible expenditures.
  • Professional, scientific, technical, and contracting services and fees.
  • Capital expenditures for equipment and materials, including the purchase, installation, testing, commissioning, warranty of qualifying equipment, materials, and products, as well as diagnostic, testing tools and instruments.
  • Travel expenses directly required for delivery of the project, including meals and accommodation, based on National Joint Council rates.
  • Training and workshops.
  • Other expenses directly related to the project or activity, such as field-testing services, printing services and translation, construction insurance, accreditation, licence fees and permits, laboratory and field supplies, facility expenses for seminars and conference room rentals (excluding hospitality), and data collection services.

Where the recipient is an Indigenous organization, other eligible expenses may include:

  • Costs associated with Indigenous ceremony; and,
  • Honoraria.

4.4 Ineligible expenditures

Costs that are ineligible for reimbursement but permitted as part of the total project costs include, but are not limited to:

  • The reimbursable portion of Federal and Territorial/Provincial Taxes; and,
  • In-kind costs.

The Initiative will not reimburse any portion of the following ineligible expenditures, nor will it consider the costs towards total project costs. Ineligible expenditures include, but are not limited to:

  • Land purchase;
  • Financing charges and interest on loans; and,
  • Costs incurred prior to project approval.

4.5 Initiative duration

Completed and signed applications that meet the criteria’s will be accepted on a first come, first served basis to be considered for funding. The application-received date is when an application is considered complete.

Funding availability will end when all funds are fully allocated, or on March 31, 2027, whichever is first.

5.0 Application and assessment process

5.1 How to apply

To apply, please email remoteenergy-energieadistance@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca to request a project application and to be assigned a program officer. Program officers are available to answer application and review process-related questions to ensure the project aligns with the objectives and criteria, as indication in section 2.0 of the applicant guide. Please review the form and the provided guidance on how to complete it. To avoid duplication of effort, you may refer to a completed application for a similar program when completing your application form. Once the application is completed and meets the requirements outlined below, the program officer will present it to a federal review team to begin the assessment process.

5.2 Information for completing the application

Please speak with a project officer prior to completing the project application form. Applicants will submit a written proposal that provides a statement of work detailing the proposed project activities. All applications must be signed by an authorized officer of the applicant organization.

5.3 Assessment criteria

When necessary, regional, and distinction-based distribution may be considered in the assessment process. This is a continuous intake process, with proposals being accepted and assessed on a continuous basis throughout the initiatives’ lifetime, as long as funding remains. Proposals are not ranked and scored against each other, but rather are assessed individually based on the program criteria and objectives. Eligible projects will be assessed on the information provided in the project application, and where relevant, in supporting documentation (for example, a copy of an application submitted for another program).

Table 2 – Assessment criteria

Project information Assessment criteria
Project description Alignment with the objectives
The application clearly describes how the project aligns with one or more of the objectives listed in Section 2.0 of the applicant guide.
Note, preference may be given to projects that meet one or more of the Initiatives’ objectives.
Project activities – capacity building
The project supports building capacity within Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations to strengthen and/or develop their opportunity for future renewable energy, grid modernization, energy efficiency and (or) heating projects.
Has a Community Energy Plan been proposed, underdevelopment or completed and links to the project.
Note, preference may be given to projects that advance Indigenous and community-led clean energy opportunities in alignment with UNDRIP.

Project activities – deployment and/or research, development, demonstration projects
The application clearly identifies:

  • How the project builds on the community energy plan and previous projects in the community.
  • The technology being proposed, the proposed system’s size, the anticipated heat load and (or) electricity demand, and how it will improve energy usage within the community to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for heat and (or) power.
  • If there is revenue generation potential, considering operation and maintenance costs for each clean energy asset throughout its life cycle.
  • If this is a novel or commercially available technology or system and whether this has operated successfully in a remote site with a similar climate.
  • For bioheat projects, indicates the nature of the fibre or feedstock supply including its source, security, and term of its availability, how you know the supply is sustainable, what volume of forest-based biomass is required annually to meet the heating or combined heat and power needs.

Note, preference may be given for demonstration or deployment projects that are shovel-ready (engineering is complete, permits are in place and all other funding is secured).

Project benefits Project benefits and expected results
The project may include activities from multiple stages and technology areas, evaluate the expected results and impacts (including negative) for each activity with the following considerations:
  • Technical benefits – e.g., technology advancement, proof of concept, addressing community system challenges, etc.
  • Economic & Social benefits – e.g.  job creation, capacity building and training opportunities, revenue stream for the community, lower utility costs, opportunities for economic development, noise reduction, improving health conditions, control of fuel costs, etc.
  • Environmental benefits – e.g., displaced fossil fuels use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, avoided spills, improved air quality.
  • Other benefits – potential for replication or adoption of the results by others; addressing community, regional or national challenges related to heat and (or) power; skills and capacity to sustain the project for the future.

Note, preference may be given to projects that demonstrate clear benefits across multiple categories and advance SDGs.

Project governance and team Project ownership and governance
Clearly outline ownership and governance models that will be used for the project.
Note, preference may be given to projects that are Indigenous-led or partnered and support UNDRIP.
Team expertise and capacity
The application considers:
  • The project team’s individual and collective experience and expertise related to the project roles and responsibilities.
  • Existing community champions and willingness to participate and train others.
  • New and(or) longer-term partnerships.
  • The management structure and organizational chart.

Note, preference may be given to projects that demonstrate an experienced team with the ability and capacity to successfully deliver a project of this scope, size, and complexity and/or a plan to gain the necessary experience and expertise.

Project engagement Indigenous and community engagement and involvement
The application includes:
  • Evidence of meaningful support from the community and connection to the community. For example, is the project led by the community or a member of the community, and/or there is a clear partnership with demonstrated evidence such as a Band Council Resolution, letters of support from community committees /organizations/governments, memorandum of understanding, impact benefit agreement, etc.
  • The role of the local community. The project describes community, rights-holder and stakeholder involvement in each stage of the project and how this will build community or organizational level capacity.
  • Evidence of community and (or) stakeholder input into the development of the project.
  • Community and (or)stakeholder involvement in each stage of the project and how this will build community or organizational level capacity.
  • If applicable, required future discussions, engagement, and consultation with Indigenous persons and organizations, and other public stakeholders.

Note, preference may be given to projects that demonstrate extensive community involvement and support and demonstrate advancement of UNDRIP Articles.

Project partners and supporters
The application includes all partners and supporters and their role in the project, such as community organizations/governments, potential funders, local/regional/provincial/territorial governments, utilities, engineering and business development firms, colleges, universities, and other academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Note, preference may be given to projects that demonstrate multiple supporters and partners.

Project workplan Project planning
The project plan clearly identifies achievable timelines and milestones and describes all the necessary steps to complete the project, it should include:
  • Outcomes and outputs from the activities are logically connected.
  • Activities flow in order with each activity building from the previous one and/or scheduled in parallel when possible.
  • Who (person/organization) responsible for the activity.
  • If applicable, environmental assessment, permitting, regulatory requirements (e.g., NavCAN), and decision points.

Note, preference may be given to projects that have a project plan that encompass all work required to successfully execute the project.

Project risks and mitigation Risk assessment
The application clearly outlines a risk management plan that identifies risks (e.g., financial, market, technical, social, regulatory, supply chain, etc.) to the success of the project and associated mitigation strategies. The number of risks will be representative of the project type, size and complexity.
Note, preference may be given to projects that demonstrate a thorough consideration of key project risks and well thought-through mitigation strategies.
Project financials Budget assessment and project financial strength
The application clearly outlines:
  • A detailed budget with estimated costs, taking into account market value, regional (remote travel/shipping requirements) factors and contingency.
  • Other sources of funding including other government (federal, provincial, territorial, regional, community) support).
  • Indication of how the staff, professional services, equipment and construction costs are estimated (e.g., firm quotes, estimates from suppliers, etc.).
  • Level of contingency and its appropriateness given current project status and risk management.
  • If applicable, for deployment and demonstration projects, include accounting statements that outline potential revenue generation, pay back period, and internal rate of return.

Note, preference may be given to projects that demonstrate a reasonable funding request for the proposed activities and evidence and (or) confirmation of other funding sources.

5.4 Project funding

The Initiative recognizes that projects across Canada are developed in unique regional contexts and will vary widely in terms of objective, scope, size, project type, and cost. As a result, funding amounts will be determined on a project-by-project basis once a completed application has been reviewed.

Although the Initiative can support up to 100% of total project costs, the level of funding a project can receive will be determined during the assessment of your project. The following will be taken into consideration:

  • Eligibility of expenses;
  • Demonstrated need and reasonableness of overall expenses relative to projected outcomes, as detailed in a financial plan or budget;
  • Importance of projected expenditures to project success;
  • Recipient and project type;
  • Scope and duration of project activities;
  • Project location;
  • Project feasibility and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction potential;
  • Project co-benefits and risks;
  • Ability to leverage other sources of funding;
  • The amount of remaining Initiatives’ funding available at the time of project consideration; and,
  • Regional and distinctions-based allocations.

For capacity building projects, the maximum contribution for these projects cannot exceed $5 million. Energy efficiency and demand-side management pilot projects that help reduce energy usage, such as a small-scale building retrofit in a community cannot exceed $1 million.

For deployment, and research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) the maximum contribution varies by project type:

  • For deployment of renewable electricity generation and demonstration of clean energy for heat and (or) power contribution cannot exceed $50 million;
  • For research and development for heat and (or) power contribution cannot exceed $20 million; and,
  • For bioheat projects Initiatives’ contribution cannot exceed $10 million.

Recipients are able to combine (or “stack”) multiple government funding sources up to 100% of total project costs.

The Initiative will work with applicants, as well as partnering government departments and agencies, including the Canada Infrastructure Bank, to identify co-funding opportunities for eligible projects.

5.5 Assessment process

5.5.1 Application assessment

Regional program officers will review the application for completeness and ensure that it meets all requirements. Depending on the size, type, and risk of the proposed project, more or less detail may be required. Applications will be evaluated based on the criteria (as outlined in section 5.3 above). If the reviewers determine that the project and applicant are eligible and meet all the requirements, project will be brought for approval.

The Initiative may request additional supporting documentation to evaluate and confirm.

Table 3 – Examples of Due Diligence Supporting Documentation

Due diligence assessment Examples of supporting documentationFootnote 4
Financial feasibility Detailed budget, cashflow statement, applicant financial statements, funding letters, power purchase agreement, etc.
Technical feasibility Feasibility and engineering studies, engineering designs, equipment specifications, interconnection, or geotechnical studies, system modeling, etc.
Applicant eligibility Incorporation documents, partnership agreements, organization structure, memoranda of understanding, etc.
Other considerations: community involvement and/or support; regulations and permitting Community, jurisdiction, or utility support letter, community energy plan, environmental assessment, permits, engagement plan, etc.

6.0 Definitions

Table 4 – Definitions

Term Definition
Applicant The organization submitting an application for a project under the Initiative.
Application A written project application signed and submitted by the applicant.
Contribution The funding towards eligible expenditures of the project provided by Canada under the contribution agreement.
Eligible expenditures Those costs, incurred by a recipient within the eligible expenditure period, which are cash disbursements made with respect to the project activities set out in the contribution agreement.
Indigenous Includes First Nation, Inuit, Métis, status Indian and non-status Indian individuals, or any combination thereof.
Indigenous-owned A majority (greater than 50%) ownership by an Indigenous organization.
Indigenous applicant An Indigenous community or government, Tribal Council, National or regional Indigenous councils, and Tribal organizations, and Indigenous majority owned and controlled for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.
Innovation Implementing a new product, service or process that creates value for stakeholders, in this case remote communities.
Meaningful ownership The Indigenous share of ownership is significant enough to result in generational benefits for Indigenous communities.
Northern remote community All communities in these 5 regions of Canada – Northwest Territories, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut and the Yukon Territory.
Project The applicant’s project identified in the application, as approved by Canada.
Project approval The date, following evaluation of an application, on which the applicant was notified by the Initiative that it has succeeded to the contribution agreement negotiation stage.
Recipient  A successful applicant that has entered into a contribution agreement with Canada.
Remote community A community not currently connected to the North American electrical grid nor to the piped natural gas network and which is a permanent or long-term (5 years or more) settlement with at least 10 dwellings. Includes all Northern Remote Communities.
Remote industrial site Industrial scale commercial operations in remote locations, both large and small, such as mines and manufacturing facilities that are not currently connected to the North American electrical grid, nor the piped natural gas network.
Rural community A community connected to the North American electrical grid and not connected to the North American piped natural gas network, with a population of fewer than 5,000 people and a population density of less than 400 people per square kilometre. A permanent or long-term (5 years or more) settlement with at least 10 dwellings.
Sustainable Development Goals Refers to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
Total project costs The program’s contribution and other verifiable cash or in-kind project contributions directly attributable to the project, either received or contributed by the recipient from project approval date to the completion date, or March 31, 2027, which ever is earlier.
United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2007. The declaration is a “comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.”
On May 10, 2016, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs announced that the Government of Canada was a full supporter of the Declaration, without qualification, and committed to its full and effective implementation in accordance with the Canadian constitution.
On June 21st, 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act received Royal Assent and came into force. This Act provides a roadmap for the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples to work together to implement the Declaration based on lasting reconciliation, healing, and cooperative relations.
Wah-ila-toos An Initiative with a “no wrong door” approach for Indigenous, rural, and remote communities to obtain Government of Canada funding and resources for clean energy projects.

7.0 Other information

7.1 Reporting requirements

The Initiative will track the progression of funded projects through planning, construction, and operational stages, as applicable.

Funding recipients will be asked to report on the environmental, social, and economic benefits of their project or activity, including energy generated from their renewable energy project, or energy consumption reduced from their energy efficiency project. Standard reporting requirements on activities and expenditures, as well as financial statements will be required as per the contribution agreement.

7.2 Contact information

If you have questions regarding eligibility, please to contact us at remoteenergy-energieadistance@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca to be connected with a program officer to discuss your project or idea.

7.3 Disclaimer

The Government of Canada reserves the right to alter any call for applications, funding amounts and (or) deadlines associated with any Initiatives’ component, apply regional or technology stream funding limits, and to cancel any application process at its sole discretion. Any changes will be communicated via the Initiatives’ website: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-plan/reduce-emissions/reducing-reliance-diesel.html

Applications may also be considered for support under other Government of Canada programs and initiatives and by the Canada Infrastructure Bank. These other programs may use additional mandatory criteria for funding consideration.

Until a written funding agreement is signed by both parties (the Government of Canada and the applicant), no commitment nor obligation exists on the part of the Government of Canada to make a financial contribution to any project.

In submitting a completed application, the applicant has the option to provide the Initiative with permission to share the project application, and any other information provided as supplemental material, with entities that the applicant selects.

The Government of Canada has a legal duty to provide, and is committed to ensuring, a work environment to public service employees that is free of harassment and violence. The program will not tolerate any harassment or violence to its employees. The program reserves the right to take necessary steps, in the event of an applicant’s harassment or violence to the employees of the program.

7.4 Confidentiality and security of information

Paragraph 20(1) of the Access to Information Act prohibits a government institution from publicly disclosing any information—financial, commercial, scientific or technical—supplied by a project applicant to the Initiative so long as the project applicant treats the information as confidential in their own establishment.

Accordingly, the Initiative will protect the applicant’s confidential information in its possession to the same extent as the applicant protects said confidential information in their own establishment. The Initiative will use email correspondence to the applicant for all non-confidential matters.

The Initiative recognizes that email is not a secure means of communication, and therefore cannot guarantee the security of confidential information sent via email while it is in transit. Nonetheless, applicants who regularly use email to communicate confidential information within their own organizations may choose to submit their documentation packages by email to: remoteenergy-energieadistance@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca

For more information on this subject, please refer to Section 20 of the Access to Information Act.

7.5 Intellectual property

All intellectual property that arises in the course of a project shall vest in, or be licensed to, the Recipient. The recipient will grant to Canada a non-exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free license in perpetuity to use the data and information contained in reports and modify such reports and documents for non-commercial governmental purposes.

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