Question re: Energy supply and demand - May 6, 2015

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, for many years, the Yukon Liberal Party has been advocating for the government to adapt an independent power producing policy or an IPP policy. This initiative was first promised by this government in 2009. Similar to the government’s promise to create a mental health strategy for example, the commitment to an IPP policy has been an empty promise for many years. This policy, if it came forward, would enable independent producers to generate power to help the territory to meet present and future power demands. It has been six years since this promise has been made. Last fall, the minister said that it would be — and I quote: “…in place sometime within the first six months of 2015”.

Mr. Speaker, that’s only two months away. So far, this is yet another item that falls under the “unfinished business” column for this current government. Will this latest deadline be met or are we looking for another delay?

Hon. Mr. Kent: I should just quickly take an opportunity to correct the record. I believe I was responding to a question from the Member for Mayo-Tatchun in Question Period the other day and suggested that the IPP policy would be ready later this month. I was actually referring to the study on the Yukon to Skagway transmission line.

But in response to the member opposite’s question, we are anticipating that the IPP policy will be ready to go sometime before the end of June. The consultation process last year — during that, we received over 40 responses to the draft policy and that feedback is providing valuable guidance to the development of the final policy. It still has to make its way through our internal processes — caucus and Cabinet processes — but I am very excited that we are following through on the commitments in the Energy Strategy for Yukon.

As I have mentioned previously, I am very proud of the work that we are doing on energy. We certainly see from the Yukon Energy Corporation that the vast majority of our grid energy is generated by renewable sources. We have the microgeneration program in place as well as an associated program to provide subsidies to people who are looking to purchase microgeneration products. The biomass strategy — we are out for consultation right now. There are a number of initiatives that we are undertaking, not the least of which is the next generation hydro project being led by the Minister of Yukon Development Corporation.

Mr. Silver: We do know that there are lots of initiatives moving forward, and we do also know that Yukon is a leading jurisdiction in Canada for renewable energy — I believe it’s over 90 percent. Yukoners are very proud of that fact and so is the Liberal Party. We do hope to continue this trend and we believe that independent power producing policy could bring new, reliable energy sources into the Yukon grid. We in the Liberal Party are very anxious to see this policy moving forward in a responsible manner, as it could provide a much-needed increase to our territory’s own power supply. Unfortunately, we have been waiting of this for many years — 2009 in fact. As the minister mentioned, there was a consultation held last summer. Usually after a consultation of this sort, we get a summary document or a What We Heard document.

Why has no summary document been issued after consultation wrapped up last summer?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Officials in Energy, Mines and Resources have compiled all the public input into aWhat We Heard document and that will be released. I am looking forward to introducing this IPP program in addition to the microgeneration program that we introduced. We are in the midst of consultations on a biomass strategy, which is another exciting opportunity, not only for energy and space heating and perhaps even district heating opportunities, but also to kick-start the forest industry. The economic impact of the fuel-wood industry that we have right now is over $3 million. We see some tremendous opportunities for growing that sector of our economy and putting boots on the ground and people to work in that private sector industry to support biomass and the valued added that would come from district heating and space heating as well as potential power generation.

Over 99 percent of the grid energy generated is from renewable sources. Most of that is from hydro sources. We have a number of legacy projects, but there have also been projects invested by the Yukon Party government — Mayo B and enhancements to Aishihik come to mind. We look forward to the clean energy future that we have committed to and following through on our commitments such as the IPP, microgeneration, biomass and enhanced hydro opportunities.

Mr. Silver: I do realize that there is a lot of work that goes into a policy such as this. Last fall the minister said that he was planning to take some time to get it right rather than rushing. I would argue that six years later would be hardly considered rushing. The fact that it’s not in place represents how low this might rank on the list of priorities for the government. Our neighbours to the south — British Columbia, for example: 92 electric purchasing agreements — EPAs — with IPPs. Their policy has been in place for many, many years. Many of these projects are from renewable energy sources such as biomass, wind and hydro.

This could be a good news story — or it could be, if the government actually gets a policy in place — and it has been six years. I guess the question that is still being begged is: Does the minister anticipate accepting power from independent producers? When would that be, if this policy ever gets brought forward?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Yes, of course, Mr. Speaker. That is why we are embarking on the work of this policy.

I should actually take the time as well to thank the officials in Energy, Mines and Resources who have done the work in putting this together. This is part of the overall energy strategy, as the member opposite referenced, from 2009. One of the first announcements that I was able to make upon taking responsibility for Energy, Mines and Resources is that we have actually met our renewable targets that are contained in that energy strategy. Again, thanks for the good work of the previous Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and previous Yukon Party ministers and Cabinet and caucus members who are committed to clean energy.

This government wants to focus on clean energy options, whether it’s the next gen hydro as the long-term bookend or other opportunities, such as the wind energy opportunities that we have seen come forward from some of the First Nations, solar opportunities that exist in many communities, including the community of Old Crow. There are a number of excellent clean energy opportunities, and once this policy is introduced and goes through our internal process — I do anticipate that being before the end of June — we look forward to getting it out there and entering into power purchase agreements with individuals and companies to ensure that we can continue to meet Yukon’s energy demand, both now and in the short, medium and longer term.