Q.P. Energy Supply and Demand, May 6, 2013

Question re:  Energy supply and demand

Mr. Silver:    Mr. Speaker, we have had many discussions this spring about the government’s failure to plan for an energy cliff that Yukon is about to go over. Demand is rising when our supply can’t keep up. This lack of planning has left the government scrambling to keep up and has resulted in Yukoners paying higher electricity bills. The government is now moving ahead with plans to burn natural gas to try and address this problem. It’s better than diesel, but it’s certainly not a green fuel. A lack of planning has left us with no other options. The minister told this House a short time ago, “We do have a commitment to continue to pursue the development of hydro projects.” This is something we can support, Mr. Speaker.

Other than the project in Skagway that we’ve already discussed and is years away, what hydro project is the government pursuing and when might it be ready?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:    Again we see, unfortunately, the Member for Klondike simply has not got his facts straight in this. I point out that the increase that was applied for by Yukon Energy Corporation and approved by the Yukon Utilities Board is something that, in fact, when you compare the average costs per 1,000 kilowatt hours per month — and I would compare other jurisdictions like Toronto, Regina, Edmonton, Iqaluit and Yellowknife. Yukoners in fact pay less for 1,000 kilowatt hours than those other jurisdictions do. For comparative numbers, the bill in Whitehorse would be $117.54; in Toronto it would be $135.05; in Regina it would be $144.19; in Edmonton it would be $185.64; in Iqaluit it would be $275.05; and in Yellowknife it would be $287.87. So, in fact, Yukoners’ power rates, compared to the rest of the country, including those jurisdictions I noted, compare quite well. But, as we near the end of the room of our legacy hydro, we do, of course, have to look to spending money on additional capacity. That will, at some point, have to be done and there will be a cost to it. But, in fact, contrary to the member’s assertion, Yukon’s power bills compare very well to the rest of the country.

Mr. Silver:    The minister did a good job of ducking the question, and I guess he’s in full support of the subsidy that’s being provided currently. I will remind the minister that the Yukon Party has had a decade to address this specific problem and has added very little new hydro generation in that time. We do know that the Yukon Party spent at least two years trying to sell the Energy Corporation to a company in Alberta. If those two years hadn’t been lost, then we would have been much further ahead. We are pleased that the government is looking at expanding our hydro capacity. It is probably one of the best-known options for our energy future. We know that the government spent millions of dollars pursuing a project in Atlin that ended up turning into a park. That project will never proceed.

What hydro project is the top priority for the government, and when might it be ready?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:    You know, the Liberal Leader does a grave disservice to this topic by simplifying it and painting inaccurate assertions about this. I would, first of all, remind the member that this current Yukon Party caucus is almost a completely new caucus that was elected in the 2011 election. Secondly, in fact, as far as the work that has been done on various energy options, in fact the Yukon Energy Corporation has spent millions of dollars researching various energy options and staff of the Yukon Energy Corporation, as well as their parent company, Yukon Development Corporation, will be here later this month, on May 14, to answer questions from members and to explain some of the work they have done on studies, including options to increase hydro supply.

The member is either completely unaware of or completely failing to recognize the significant investments in Mayo B and the Aishihik third turbine that total over $76 million in federal money, as well as Yukon money that was spent on the Mayo B hydro project. Mayo B, of course, is the largest single federal investment under the green energy program. I’m not sure if the Leader of the Liberal Party doesn’t understand it, isn’t aware of it or chooses not to reflect it in this House because it doesn’t fit in with his cute little narrative.

Mr. Silver:    I think the minister does a grave misconduct to the industry by refusing to answer this question. The lead must come from his office and, after a decade of the Yukon Party being in office, we are not ready to move ahead on any additional hydro projects. We are facing an energy crunch because the Yukon Party has failed to plan for our energy future. Yukoners are looking at higher bills this year because the government failed to ensure that power supply meets power demand. Many of the hydro options being considered would involve working with First Nation governments. Let’s change the topic here and maybe we’ll get an answer.

What discussions are ongoing with First Nation governments about expanding our hydro capacity and what projects are being discussed and focused upon?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:    I have to again remind the member that significant work has gone on: tens of millions of dollars invested by the Yukon Energy Corporation in researching various renewable energy options, including hydro options; the significant investment in Mayo B — the largest single federal investment under their green energy program; the connection of the two grids; meeting a specific platform commitment made in 2006; $5 million from the federal government plus money from Yukon in the Aishihik third turbine project — a total investment of roughly $13 million. Those are investments in hydro that the member simply fails to recognize.

Again, as I pointed out to the Liberal member, the staff of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation and the chairs of both boards will be here later this month. They can provide details. I reminded him that people in the Yukon pay significantly lower power bills than other Canadian capital cities. For 1,000 kilowatt hours, a Whitehorse power bill would be $117.54; Toronto would be $135.05; Regina would be $144.19; Edmonton, $185.64; Iqaluit, $275.05; Yellowknife a whopping $287.87 — compared to our power bills of roughly $170 less per month.