We should keep energy local

We should keep energy local Yukon Energy's ownership has been the subject of debate lately and it is important that we do not let this one slip from our Yukon fingers. Energy governs our lives. We use energy to drive, to heat our homes, and our food is p

Yukon Energy’s ownership has been the subject of debate lately and it is important that we do not let this one slip from our Yukon fingers.

Energy governs our lives. We use energy to drive, to heat our homes, and our food is produced and delivered to our doorstep with it. We cannot take it for granted.

The price of fossil fuel will rise again because it is a finite resource. More importantly, this particular source of energy is going to increase the cost of everything in our lives. As it does, we will be forced to go back to regional economies where most things (including energy) that we consume will come from within a few hundred kilometres.

As a territory, we should be working now to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in order to achieve energy security. We need to develop more renewable energy, become more efficient with our use of resources, and grow food locally.

We have many natural assets that will help us make this transition to a regional economy easier. We need to make sure that the utility that controls our energy assets is headquartered locally because we’ll want to be able to tell them a thing or two about how we would like to plan our energy mix.

The recent talks about having the Yukon’s energy assets being shared with an Outside private company propose to strip away our ability to decide on our energy future as a territory.

Like all companies, ATCO Group has only a single bottom line and that is to make profits for its shareholders. It is legally obligated to do so.

We strongly believe that the best kinds of organizations are those that follow a triple-bottom line: social, environmental, and fiscal responsibilities all in balance with each other. Yukon Energy Corporation, as it stands, has the ability to do those things.

ATCO is essentially a big-oil company whose primary legal obligation is to make money for its shareholders. Its secondary interest is extraction of fossil fuel, water and other resources, and the Yukon has what ATCO wants.

When it comes to ATCO’s commitment to the environment and social responsibilities, these are relegated to public relations and corporate sponsorship band-aid approaches. It is not in the business of planning for a healthy energy future for the Yukon.

Oil companies are unlikely to invest seriously in renewable energy in the near future. Doing so will hurt their single bottom line: to keep the oil prices up and to keep the profits up. To invest in renewable energy will cause a lower demand for gasoline or heating fuel and force the price of oil down, and that’s bad for ATCO.

It is our hope that the Yukon could become a model for human sustainability on this planet. We have interesting challenges and, if we are able to overcome them, anybody else on this planet can, too. But in order to develop a sustainable economy in this territory we must develop renewable energy.

The environment doesn’t belong to us, we belong to it. Humans, being the most dominant creature on the planet, must recognize our role as stewards of this Earth. We must learn to curtail our consumptive lifestyle choices. We need to learn to live in balance with the other creatures in our neighbourhood.

We acknowledge that melding Yukon Energy and ATCO together may add some efficiency to the overall electrical budget, but what a price to pay.

Yukon people would lose our ability to have input in some of the most important planning for our future.

On a more practical note, Yukon Energy profits will go south. ATCO’s headquarters are based in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, Canada’s oil province. ATCO can demand higher rates and we may have to pay them. We’re already experiencing this in the latest Yukon Utilities Board hearing: Yukon Energy wants to reduce rates (benefiting Yukoners) and at the same time YECL wants to raise them (benefiting ATCO shareholders).

Let’s not forget that ATCO has an annual budget that is three times that of our whole territory. They will be less interested in serving Yukoners than extracting Yukon’s natural assets (oil and water, to name two).

If anything, the Yukon should be looking at buying out YECL. It makes complete sense to invest in the Yukon’s energy infrastructure.

This would ensure the long-term energy well-being of the Yukon.

Energy Committee

Yukon Conservation Society

Whitehorse