Question re: Hydroelectric dam projects - April 22, 2014

Mr. Silver:   Last summer the Premier announced that the government was moving forward on building a new hydroelectric dam. After the Yukon Party government and the former energy minister spent several years trying to sell our hydro system to Alberta, this is a welcome change in direction.

However, since the formal announcement in November, there has been no word from this government on how it intends to proceed. Mr. Speaker, last fall the minister did ask the Yukon Development Corporation to start planning. He gave them a 90-day period to prepare a report. The minister should have had that report by late February. We did hear of an extension earlier this year, in the spring legislative session.

Has he received it and will he make it public?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    As the member opposite referenced, there was the provision in the directive that we gave to the Yukon Development Corporation to grant them an extension, and that extension was granted. Although I have not received the final workplan yet, I anticipate getting it before the conclusion of the spring sitting and I will either table it or make it public at the time that I receive it.

Mr. Silver:   While the work being done by the Yukon Development Corporation proceeds, the minister has decided to also start a separate process to look at developing a hydro project near Skagway. It is part of a $250,000 undertaking with the State of Alaska and is not even due, as a report, until December 31, 2014.

The minister has two separate projects going, with two different departments in charge, with two different timelines in play. Yukoners have been waiting for this government to get serious about expanding our hydro capacity for more than a decade and it appears that we continue to wait.

We know that a previous minister spent years signing contracts to have experts look at the best way to privatize our energy future, and that did set planning back by several years. However, last summer the Premier did tell the national media that a new dam was high on his top priorities.

Realistically, how far away is a new hydro dam from actually happening?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    When it comes to clean power initiatives, this government has short-term, medium-term and long-term plans. Of course, the legacy hydro project that the member opposite referenced in his first question is something that really speaks to the longer-term vision for providing clean power and addressing economic development opportunities with clean power initiatives.

As many Yukoners know, we’re very fortunate to have 95 percent of our power generated by hydroelectricity — hydroelectricity that was built in the 1950s and 1960s by the federal government. We feel that the legacy hydro project is something that can really address our power concerns in the longer term.

The member opposite also referenced the Alaska-Yukon electrical and telecommunication connections, and that’s more of a medium-term solution to addressing some of our power needs. There was an MOU signed last fall, and we awarded a contract last week to look at the feasibility of connecting Yukon and southeast Alaska via a power grid. The power project that the member opposite referenced is actually something that’s being led by Alaska Power and Telephone. It’s something that they look to tie into this grid potentially so that we can purchase power from them in the wintertime when we need it and we can sell excess hydro in the summertime when they need it.

Mr. Silver:   Mr. Speaker, Yukoners can appreciate that proper planning does take time. We only have to look at the $6 million wasted on the scrapped design for F.H. Collins to see what happens when planning is not done properly.

What Yukoners are not impressed with is the fact that the Yukon Party government is only starting to address this issue after 12 years of being in office. It’s very unfortunate that many of these years were spent with a former Energy, Mines and Resources minister leading the way toward privatization.

Now, fast-forward to today, and we are facing growing demands and our supply beyond more diesel is unknown because of this government’s failure to map its way forward.

When is this government going to make a decision on which new hydro project it intends to pursue?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    It is very interesting to listen to the questions from the member opposite, because he certainly criticizes us on many days for poor planning and now we are getting criticized for doing proper planning with respect to the hydro project.

As mentioned, the Yukon Development Corporation will be coming forward with a workplan that will spell out which projects will be considered for the legacy hydro project, where they are located, and those types of aspects with respect to planning a major project of this undertaking.

When it comes to the energy future of the Yukon, we want to ensure that we plan it properly and we do it right. There are a number of things that we’ve done to address power needs in the short, medium and long term. Medium term — we spoke about the inter-tie between Yukon and southeast Alaska.

Longer term — the legacy hydro project. Of course, we have the microgeneration program in place and consultations this year on the independent power producers policy. There are a number of things that we are looking to do to address the power needs of Yukoners, both now and into the future.