Northern Lights—Developing energy in the NWT with recent grad Phil Duguay

April 2012

 

The ink was barely dry on his diploma last year when Philip Duguay, BCL/LLB’11, headed north. Far north. All the way to Yellowknife, to conduct strategic planning in energy development for the government of the Northwest Territories.

Duguay, who as a student published an article about wind energy in South Africa in the Oxford University Journal of World Energy Law and Business, knew even before he graduated that he wanted to pursue work in energy planning and policy. “During my time at McGill, I studied energy law independently under Professor Richard Janda, who was a tremendous mentor to me during my studies,” he recalls.

And now, as an analyst in the Energy Planning Division of the territorial Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Duguay has the opportunity to get his hands dirty. He worked on the Fort Simpson Solar Project, a grid-tied, photo-voltaic solar demonstration project funded by his Department, which was just inaugurated last month. “Fort Simpson might be one of the most difficult geographic regions in the world in which to build, design and operate energy infrastructure,” says Duguay, “but it has more sunny days per year than almost anywhere else in Canada, more than Paris, Berlin and Tokyo.”

Successes like these have been achieved in tremendously challenging conditions. “The long and short of it is, we live in a harsh climate, with limited resources, vast distances between communities, a lack of economies of scale, a turbulent social history, and a shortage of skilled workers needed for some energy systems to succeed,” says Duguay. “Add to that the tremendous expense of doing business in the North, which mean we always have to do more with less.”

But Duguay is philosophical about all the challenges to energy development in the North. “I can say that in law school, I learned you always develop a strong understanding of a topic from the periphery. You learn a lot about family law by looking at controversial issues such as filiation cases touching artificial insemination, or a lot about drug laws through cases touching safe injection sites. By the same logic, there is no place in the world to get a better education about energy development than the Northwest Territories.”

And it looks like Duguay might be settling in to this challenging, exotic, complex, Northern position. He originally signed for 12 months, but now hints that they want him to stay for 24. “I must admit, I am not in any rush to find an articling position. I know I’ll find the right fit eventually, but I like my job here.”

Article by Bridget Wayland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[ABOVE: Phil in the chopper, having joined engineers to scout hydro development sites in the NWT; Phil snapped this aerial shot of a potential Hydro site on the massive bank of the Petitot River; Downstream of a potential Hydro site on Petitot River. BELOW: The brand-new, grid-tied photo-voltaic solar power installation in Fort Simpson, NWT, inaugurated last month (Northwest Territories Power Corporation).]

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