Keeping the Lights on All the Time

The Community Appropriate Sustainable Energy Security Project Reimagines Energy 

Officially launched in July 2019 and based at the University of Saskatchewan, the Community Appropriate Sustainable Energy Security Project (CASES) is working to improve energy security in northern and Indigenous communities here and abroad. “CASES is a project involving 15 communities—including two in Saskatchewan—and 17 public and private sector partners,” says Jackie Martin, CASES project manager. “The project’s goal is to share knowledge, build capacity, and create renewable energy systems in these communities.”

Energy Security in the North

CASES Team Canada

In Saskatchewan, there are two power grids. In the North, the grid is ungrounded—with many power customers relying on electricity for heat from that grid. “The ungrounded grid means that when the power goes out, it goes out for the whole grid, not just a small area,” says Martin. “With so many people using electric heat—that’s a huge problem. People can’t go days without heat during a Saskatchewan winter.” In other northern and Indigenous communities, power is generated from diesel with many generation systems at the end of their useful life. “People using diesel for energy are at the mercy of pricing in the market, and often aging infrastructure,” says Martin. “Many communities are dealing with generators that won’t be viable for long.”

Both energy sources pose problems for residents relying on them in terms of reliability, affordability and sustainability. Add these issues to the energy transition the world is facing, and solutions are needed to help these communities find and maintain a sustainable energy source, long-term.


Saskatchewan (and Canada’s) north is ready for energy transition, and CASES will help lead the way. “There are over 250 off-grid communities in northern Canada. Of those, 170 are Indigenous and reliant on diesel generators,” says Martin. “The opportunity is right here, right now. Transitions can be made to different energy sources, including biomass, solar, and wind.”

CASES is bringing together these impacted communities with researchers, utilities and partners to address how energy can be generated and delivered sustainably over time. “We’re working with partners in Alaska, Sweden and Norway, who are years ahead of Canada in addressing these issues,” says Martin. “Together, we can find solutions for Canadian communities dealing with energy problems in the North.” The project, funded in part by the federal government and industry, will spend the next seven years working on solutions. “During the project, we will not only help communities but also train 83 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in energy-related sciences,” says Martin.

Industry Partnerships

CASES is more than a research project. It also offers major opportunities for utilities and energy industry partners. “Not only can organizations contribute in terms of corporate social responsibility, it’s also the chance to test ideas and new tech,” says Martin. “We’re open to working with partners with an interest in the energy transition and renewable energy technology.” The project will also host its first international forum in January 2021, bringing together experts from around the world. “CASES will help deliver solutions, working hand in hand with communities and researchers—it’s a remarkable project based right in our province.”

Learn more at renewableenergy.usask.ca