It's time for a renewable energy plan that works

The Yukon Party will miss yet another deadline on the long road to developing an Independent Power Production (IPP) policy.

This spring, energy minister Scott Kent told Yukoners that the policy would be ready by the end of June. By early July, Kent delayed the policy’s release – again – for a few more months.

Maybe Scott Kent’s Yukon Party government just can’t get it right. Maybe they don’t want to.

Widespread public support for independent power production dates back to the late 1990s; the public consultation on Yukon’s Energy Strategy showed that there was still continued enthusiasm in 2008.

In 2009, the Yukon Party said that IPPs were a way to make it “viable for independent power producers… to generate clean, renewable electricity”. They released their first draft policy and conducted consultations. And they were forced back to the drawing board by Yukoners.

In December 2011, Premier Darrell Pasloski mentioned IPP in his inaugural legislative assembly speech. But it was clearly a false signal. Rather than enabling more independent production of renewable energy, the Yukon Party’s energy priorities have been instead focussed squarely on making Yukoners believe that natural gas is good for the environment… while turning their backs on actual renewable energy.

So what happened?

Over the last few years, Yukoners have been subject to an LNG campaign that has seen a fracked gas morph from a ‘transition fuel’ to a $40 million public infrastructure investment. Sold as ‘reliable back-up’ power, it turns out that LNG will likely end up as a base-load source of power. Relying on false comparisons, the Yukon Party insists LNG is cleaner and cheaper.

By 2014, the Yukon Party deemed LNG green enough for promotion in its much-anticipated second draft IPP policy. The bias toward oil and gas was immediately apparent: non-renewable fossil fuels were added to the plan.

The fact that the Yukon Party still didn’t get the policy right shows that Yukoners are not willing to settle for a plan compromised by inappropriate thresholds and the inclusion of fossil fuels. Yukon’s off-grid, diesel dependent communities have been waiting years for an appropriate IPP policy that facilitates renewable energy independence. It is beyond ironic that the very minister proudly announcing – yet again – a task force to reduce diesel generation in remote communities is also responsible for thwarting the renewable energy projects that could be helping those same communities.

The lack of a Yukon Independent Power Production policy has also cost Yukoners other opportunities such as partnerships with First Nations and municipalities. In Atlin B.C., the Tlingit-owned power company Xeitl built a run-of-river, two-megawatt hydro power project about five kilometres from town. The hydro plant began operations on April 1, 2009, allowing the community to turn off its diesel-powered electricity generator.

So, here we are. The Yukon Party government’s term is almost up. Seven years and two Yukon Party premiers later, they still haven’t delivered on an Independent Power Production policy.

Energy decisions affect us all and impact future generations. Yukon has so much untapped potential in renewable energies to explore. The Yukon NDP has long supported a renewable  vision for Yukon’s energy future, dating back to the territory’s most comprehensive and progressive energy planning completed in 1998 under NDP Premier Piers MacDonald.

We remain committed to smarter demand-side management and to increasing Yukon’s supply of diverse renewable energies. If there is one silver lining of the Yukon Party’s delays with an IPP policy, it’s this: technology advances are making renewable energy options more effective and less expensive.

It’s time to get the job done and build an energy future for Yukon that we can all be proud of.


Photo: wilsonhui / flickr. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.