Question re: Independent power producer policy – April 2, 2013

Mr. Silver: As far back as 2007, the Yukon Liberal Party has been advocating for the government to adapt an independent power producer policy, or an IPP. An IPP policy would enable businesses to generate their own electricity. This is something a number of mining companies are interested in doing. They see it as a way to power their own projects. The holdup is the Yukon government, which has been talking about putting a policy in place to allow this for over four years now and there still is no policy. The minister has told this House that work on the policy is ongoing. The government’s website says, “We expect to return to the public for review of the IPP draft policy in the coming months.” This is something industry and the Liberal caucus have been promoting for a number of years.

When will we see a policy in place?

Hon. Mr. Cathers: What I must correct the Leader of the Liberal Party on first of all is that there is nothing that prevents a mine or other individual or corporation from producing their own power for their own use. There is also nothing that prevents them having an arrangement with a partner that provides the generation facilities, whatever that is through — whether that would be through diesel or liquefied natural gas generation or hydro or other use. Any of these generation models can be done currently.

What an IPP structure would do would facilitate the sale by a private sector company to the public grid, but there would also be an obligation to pay for that. That is why we are looking very carefully at what has worked in other jurisdictions. We have been in discussion with other jurisdictions about what they see as working well with their models and what has not and giving very careful consideration to what the strengths and weaknesses of policies in other Canadian jurisdictions have been — pointing to Ontario as one of the worst examples of what happens when you take this policy too far; the Ontario Liberal Party has created a massive debt that will burden the utilities and the people of Ontario for many years to come.

Mr. Silver: I think we all know what an IPP is; I think what we don’t have is an actual policy. We as a territory need to plan better for the future. The Yukon Party has simply failed to deliver here. I wish it were not so, but this seems to be a theme. We are seeing the usual suspect planning on this file, as we have on a lot of other major files and issues.

We are approaching an energy crunch and it is because of lack of planning and a lack of an IPP. A clearly laid out independent power production policy is an important part of planning for the future, but it is still not in place after talking about this for over four years. We are at the precipice of an energy cliff and Yukoners are starting to see a legacy of inaction. When will this policy be in place?

Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again, I must take issue with the comments of the Leader of the Liberal Party. He indicated that we all understand what an IPP policy is. The preamble that he gave to his first question would suggest that the member doesn’t understand what an IPP policy is. An IPP policy is about creating an obligation for the public utility to purchase power from an independent power producer. If done right, it can avoid the public utility having to put significant investment into capital and avoid that cost. If done wrong, it can create a significant liability to ratepayers and to the public. This was done, for example, in the case of the Government of Ontario, which charged into this area, paid a premium for renewable energy and has created a massive burden to ratepayers and the people of Ontario thanks to that Liberal Party’s approach to this. We have, as I’ve indicated, engaged in discussions with other Canadian jurisdictions as well as looking at models that have been dealt with successfully in the United States to determine what approaches seemed to be successful at reducing the requirement for public capital to be tied up, maximizing the benefit, but reducing that risk. I would encourage the member opposite to actually research what an independent power producer policy is, because his preamble suggests that he doesn’t understand.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, I asked the minister about this the last session and received the same excuses — the same line about how hard it is to complete a policy; the same lecture about how difficult it was and how much work has been done. But the public really isn’t interested in any of that. They want to see results; they want to see stable power bills; they want to see proper planning done before we go over an energy cliff. Demand is rising; the bills are rising. Part of the solution is an IPP policy that offers increased options to meet Yukon’s energy demands in the future. It should have been in place years ago to give these new mines, for example, an option to produce their own power and to sell back extra power to the grid.

Is the government still committed to the policy and can the minister explain the delay in getting the job done?

Hon. Mr. Cathers: First of all, again let me remind the Leader of the Liberal Party that nothing prevents a mine from putting in their own power for their own use. Nothing prevents a mine from having a third party partner provide the energy for sale. We have not received proposals such as the member appears to be suggesting or a beating down of our door for mines to sell power back to the grid. In creating an independent power producer policy, what has been done in some other jurisdictions is the setting of a rate per kilowatt hour and going out for a certain number of megawatts for purchase, but that needs to be considered very carefully.

Would the member pay a premium for this, as is done in Ontario to great failure — if the member is actually interested in listening to the question rather than heckling from the benches? How much would the member pay per kilowatt hour? How much risk would the member take — would the Liberal Party take with taxpayers’ money and with ratepayers? What obligation would they put there? That is why we are looking at this very carefully and are in dialogue with other Canadian jurisdictions to hear from them where they think their policies could be improved, so that we do not repeat the mistakes made in other jurisdictions — the most notable and drastic example being the failure of the Liberal Party of Ontario with their policy.