Renewable energy leadership pays off: MLA Tredger

The Yukon NDP’s Energy, Mines and Resources Critic, Mayo—Tatchun MLA Jim Tredger, wrote the following open letter regarding the Yukon government’s role in building a local renewable energy industry:

This summer, my family and I built a bird bath on the bluff overlooking the water in front of Stepping Stone, our home near Fort Selkirk on the Pelly River. Why does this matter? Because the valves are powered by the extra energy generated by the solar panels that power Stepping Stone.

I was excited to use that extra energy to beautify my space because it represents something much bigger: the potential to use renewable energy to reduce our need for the world’s rapidly disappearing fossil fuel supply.

My family and I have made the choice to harness and store solar energy instead of relying on diesel fuel – and we aren’t alone.

This summer, Old Crow announced that it’s ready to make diesel power a thing of the past by collecting and storing solar energy. A representative for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation said that “it’s a good thing to do in this day and age”. No surprises here: the First Nation’s proposal notes that Old Crow, like the rest of Yukon, is vulnerable to the real and visible effects of climate change.

In Kugluktuk, Nunavut, solar panels installed on the community centre are already paying off: in their first month alone, they generated 1,680 kilowatt-hours and knocked $2,000 off the community’s diesel fuel bill. Communities around Yukon are installing solar panels to save money to reduce the cost of heating public swimming pools. The Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation is using geothermal energy. And in Mount Lorne, a similar installation of community centre solar panels is having a similar effect.

And it isn’t just communities that are taking the initiative. I see more and more residential solar panels every month in Whitehorse. Northwestel economically reduced their carbon footprint by installing solar panels on their remote sites.

Initiatives like these that green our communities, especially in remote communities that rely on diesel fuel, are a reminder that there is more we can do to reduce our carbon footprints – no matter where we live.

But while communities like Kugluktuk, Mount Lorne, and Old Crow are doing their part to boost the North’s renewable energy industry, Yukon’s territorial government is nowhere to be found. Recent large-scale public infrastructure contracts have failed to incorporate renewable energy sources into their designs. At the new F.H. Collins high school, geothermal heating was part of the original plan that was scrapped by the Yukon Party government.

Our territorial government has a responsibility to show leadership on renewable energy by putting deeds in front of the words it used at the Paris climate conference in December. Instead, the Yukon Party has chosen to put its friends in the fossil fuel industry first.

Boosters of a domestic fossil fuel industry argue that we need to consider Yukoners’ reliance on our vehicles when making strategic energy decisions. This is an important discussion that we should have; the rest of the world is already making smart choices to prepare their economies for a post-carbon society. It’s becoming more affordable every year to access hybrid and electric vehicles. In some Canadian jurisdictions, governments are taking the money they would have spent attracting fossil fuel investments and offering its citizens direct subsidies for hybrid and electric vehicles.

These cars might not get from Whitehorse to Dawson City tomorrow, but hybrid cars could reduce the carbon emissions from Whitehorse’s daily highway commuters. Hybrid transport trucks are entering the commercial market. And by investing in charging stations along our main roadways and in Whitehorse, we can further extend the range of these carbon-light vehicles.

In short, we don’t need to stop driving. The transportation sector is one of many places where renewable energy offers Yukoners long-term stability.

Yukoners have shown that they want to be part of the solutions to the problems posed by our reliance on fossil fuels. The sooner we embrace the inevitable transition to a carbon-free society, the more benefits we will reap down the road.

What we need now are political leaders who have the will to make decisions that help the renewable energy industry instead of seeing it as a threat to the fossil fuel economy. I am proud to be part of the Yukon NDP team as we work with Yukoners to build a low-carbon future.

That’s a future we can all get behind.