AREA logo

Arctic Renewable Energy Atlas

Solar - Wind - Hydro - Geothermal - Biomass - Tidal


In the 2015 Iqaluit Declaration, Arctic Council Ministers “recognize(d) the importance of Arctic communities’ access to clean, affordable and renewable energy alternatives and decide(d) to facilitate initiatives to promote circumpolar collaboration on renewable energy and energy efficiency”. As a core function of its mandate, the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) also prioritizes energy and Arctic communities noting the “importance of environmentally friendly economic activity in the energy sector to ongoing social and economic development in the Arctic region.” In addition, many of the Arctic policies and strategies from the Arctic States reference renewable energy and energy efficiency as key components of sustainable development.

The proposed online Arctic Renewable Energy Atlas (AREA) will be a central location to access information, case studies, and best practices in the Arctic region to facilitate implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The Arctic Energy Summit has clearly associated these objectives with increasing the adoption of renewable energy, driving down the high cost of energy, and promoting savings through energy efficiency. Further, data sharing, storytelling, and effective transfer of knowledge and best practices will promote science-based decision making and can improve the investment climate across the circumpolar region.

Information presented within the Atlas will fall into four categories: resource supply, demand, investment and capacity, and traditional and local knowledge. Taken together, AREA will foster knowledge exchange between Arctic residents and promote clean energy prospecting by internal and external investors. Analysis of the completed Atlas will also result in a set of case studies highlighting best practices for each technology and region. This Atlas will deliver increased access to energy information topics which would include a baseline assessment of renewable energy potential, energy efficiency standards and practices, and community storytelling informed by traditional knowledge and conventional science. Examples of specific information that will be investigated include:

  • Resource Supply: wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, biomass, etc.
  • Demand: Heat demand, community generation capacity, transmission
  • Investment and capacity: Existing feasibility studies, training centers
  • Traditional and local knowledge: Existing clean energy projects, energy efficiency standards/practice, community storytelling
  • Best practice: Analysis of the Atlas will be combined with other energy aspects of the Arctic Council including the Arctic Energy Summit and the Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA)



The AREA proposal fundamentally aims to promote sustainable development in the Arctic region by creating a comprehensive online tool to enhance knowledge of the best practices and local adaptation actions on renewable energy and energy efficiency within the region. The purpose is to design and maintain the AREA as a free-of-charge resource for the general public, researchers and Arctic public officials to raise awareness of energy efficiency opportunities and renewable energy solutions.

The opportunity to engage Indigenous Permanent Participants in the active sharing of community energy challenges and solutions, document results, then share them globally, is especially significant. Indigenous peoples in Arctic communities know firsthand the struggle for power and heat and this project aims to highlight innovative solutions to those challenges.

The AREA project builds the capacity of Arctic residents to better manage the current and future challenges and opportunities in the circumpolar region. In terms of capacity building, AREA accomplishes this in a number of ways:

  • By visualizing and promoting local solutions, the project enhances knowledge of the environmental challenges and develops a guide of best practices for community and agency leaders to implement.
  • By producing the Atlas as a free-of-charge resource for the general public, and producing roll-over storytelling and sharing traditional and local knowledge, the project creates an educational/training mechanism for schools or exhibition material for museums around the world. The Atlas will also promote existing training programs. Therefore, it serves to promote public awareness and education.
  • By offering on the ground solutions and stories, and increasing access to renewable energy and energy efficiency information, AREA directly contributes to fulfilling the objective of sustainable development in the Arctic by promoting clean energy investment.
  • AREA will also provide access to clean energy management and feasibility tools identified for Arctic communities. One example is Natural Resources Canada’s RETScreen software which allows decision makers to quickly and inexpensively determine the technical and financial viability of potential renewable energy, energy efficiency and cogeneration projects.

Finally, this project contributes to science-informed decision-making, helping to standardize definitions and increase agency awareness of counterpart measures across the Arctic.


Activities and Outputs:

The Atlas will target the identification of 3-5 case studies per Arctic State that highlight best practices and energy solutions; the potential for pilot projects and/or initiatives that Observers could contribute expertise and resources to; eight individual video stories developed in collaboration with Permanent Participants about renewable energy/local adaptation, which would then be compiled into one documentary; an online Atlas that maps out solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass, which can be overlaid on existing data sets; an easily accessible website; and outreach conducted in international fora. All of these deliverables are aimed to support the SDWG mandate.

Website development and visualization – the website design and construction will utilize the latest technology advances, a highly skilled website development team, and a design philosophy that will ensure content is accessible and engaging. Integral to the website’s design will be how its component pieces – best practices, mapping, database, pilot project and video – are represented as individual elements and interconnected. At the same time, understanding that slow/low internet connectivity in remote areas of the Arctic limits upload/download speeds and viewing, the website should account for ways to mitigate this challenge. Arctic Portal will be the primary partner for these efforts, supported by others mentioned throughout. The Institute of the North will coordinate data collection in conjunction with the Arctic Portal, States and PP representatives and the relevant data holders.

Renewable energy atlas – Based on the Renewable Energy Atlas produced by the State of Alaska ( as well as the IRENA Global Atlas for Renewable Energy ( ), the AREA’s vision is for data compiled from all eight Arctic States to be collected and streamlined such that current GIS mapping can incorporate it into searchable fields and layers, that can be sorted by state, region and resource. This should produce factual, relevant information for communities, researchers and public officials.

  • Arctic States are encouraged to request and compile data
  • All project partners will work to ensure that data is collected and shared

Energy efficiency database – Very little data exists in the Arctic about individual or even public power consumption and efforts to adopt energy efficiency measures. Demand management is one element to this, but a baseline is needed. The online map will strive to identify all Arctic communities and present a basic database that describes current power consumption through domestic surveys, where needed, and any energy efficiency measures in place, standards, or goals toward increasing energy efficiency.

  • Arctic States are encouraged to request and compile data
  • U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory will assist in compiling and normalizing data
  • Other organizations, such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will contribute data as well

Best practice guide – This was an additional recommendation by the 2015 Arctic Energy Summit participants, and will need to be developed in scope by the steering committee of the AREA project, which includes interested SDWG delegations. The vision, however, is to frame this in such a way that state energy authorities or power companies, utilities and researchers are able to submit examples of best practices as they relate to increased renewable energy adoption, smart grid and energy storage systems, increased energy efficiency, decreased cost to produce power or heat, and design and engineering of buildings. A library of resources will be one feature of this, as relevant information is submitted, and case studies presented as featured examples for each State.

  • Institute of the North will be responsible for analysis of AREA, initiating requests for best practices, working with universities and government agencies to standardize and streamline this process, and conduct peer review

Community energy stories – These three to five minutes videos from communities around the Arctic will be developed with guidance by Permanent Participants, and will highlight voices from northern communities. Original footage will showcase the community and environment, as well as the power projects featuring emerging energy technology or renewable energy integration. See example from Alaska: Taken together, these community energy stories will combine as a full length documentary, with additional commentary from agency officials within the Arctic.


Anticipated Outcomes:

AREA will:

  • Increase public awareness of renewable energy in the Arctic - Measured by website visits and energy video views
  • Increase community adoption of energy efficiency goals - Measured by community submission of baseline data and standards/targets
  • Increase the application of best practices and investment in clean energy project development - Measured by tracking new projects proposed or completed from 2017-19


SDWG listed priorities:

Engagement with Arctic stakeholders including recommendations from the 2013 and 2015 Arctic Energy Summits that highlight the urgent need to increase awareness of the potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Arctic. In addition, many of the Arctic policies and strategies from the Arctic States reference renewable energy and energy efficiency as components of sustainable development.

This project advances these, as well as responds to recent negotiations at COP21. AREA contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including climate action, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, and sustainable cities and communities.


Integration of Traditional and Local Knowledge:

Broad demand for the Atlas was identified by local and regional experts and community members who participated in the Arctic Energy Summits. Subsequently, the notion of an SDWG AREA proposal was warmly received by Indigenous Permanent Participants representing their communities at the March 2016 SDWG meeting in Barrow, AK.

Ensuring Traditional and Local knowledge of Arctic peoples is consistently integrated into the work of the Arctic Council stands as key priority. Through its design and its delivery, the AREA project will benefit from contributions provided by indigenous and local people, including their perspectives and priorities as they relate to regionally-focused solutions.



Target Audiences

  • Public officials – AREA’s identification of renewable energy resources across Arctic states, baseline assessment of energy efficiency, and best practice guide will provide Ministries of Energy and state and territorial power authorities useful insights into potential policy recommendations at both an international and domestic level - AREA will conduct outreach at up to three international Arctic policy events a year, as well as via the Arctic Council
  • Community leaders - AREA’s visualization of renewable energy resources locally and relative to other Arctic states, targets for energy efficiency, and best practice guide will provide local leaders an opportunity to consider improving community power systems - AREA will invite community leaders to attend the 2017 Arctic Energy Summit, as well as conduct outreach via Permanent Participants, and to regional leaders via Northern Forum
  • Project proponents and developers - AREA’s visualization of renewable energy resources locally and for comparison between different communities, and best practice guide, will provide companies, agencies and communities an opportunity to include renewable energy more effectively into a potential project, and the pilot project component of the website will be particularly attractive - AREA will conduct outreach at international Arctic events and share this tool with utility association and trade organizations
  • General public (Arctic) – AREA makes accessible and visually engaging the process toward a clean energy future, and the public will better understand local and international approaches to renewable energy development and energy efficiency solutions - AREA will promote utilizing the individual networks of project principals
  • General public (non-Arctic) - AREA makes accessible and visually engaging the contributions that Arctic nations are making toward a clean energy future, and the public will better understand the potential of the Arctic beyond oil, gas and shipping, to include renewable energy development and energy efficiency solutions - AREA will encourage Arctic states to conduct outreach nationally and internationally

SDWG and/or the State Project lead will work with AREA project principals to communicate AREA’s goals/objectives, implementation strategy and final results to the broader Arctic Council community, proponents, beneficiaries and Arctic residents. Key to this collaboration will be a steering committee comprised of project principals, subject matter experts and SDWG members.

  • Arctic Council
  • Sustainable Development Working Group
  • Institute of the North
  • Arctic Portal
  • Korean Maritime Institute

Designed and hosted by Arctic Portal