The Yukon’s power grid needs to be linked to the Outside, says Arthur Mitchell.
This is a top priority, despite the $1-billion-plus bill, said the Liberal leader on Tuesday.
Standing on the he Rotary Centennial footbridge, with water thundering over Yukon Energy’s dam, Mitchell and Lake Laberge Liberal candidate, Mike Simon, let the party’s energy strategy flow.
Power in the territory is less reliable now than it was 10 to 20 years ago, said Mitchell.
To avoid the “all-too-frequent” power outages, the Liberals would improve electrical infrastructure, said Simon.
“That maintenance has been ignored,” added Mitchell.
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But even if existing infrastructure is improved, it won’t be able to meet the Yukon’s growing mining demands, said Mitchell.
“The Fentie/Pasloski government had nine years to plan for the mining boom that has long been predicted and the accompanying power needs that would come with it,” he said.
And the Yukon Party did nothing, besides try to secretly sell off Yukon Energy to ATCO in Alberta, said Mitchell.
“Now we have industrial customers scrambling to figure out where their power is going to come from.”
Connecting to BC’s grid would create a “two-way energy highway,” said Simon.
When demand is high, the Yukon could buy power, and when mines shut down, the territory can sell its excess power to the South, he said.
“This way, it wouldn’t burden taxpayers.”
To pay for the connection, the Liberals plan to work with industry, First Nations and the federal government.
“You can make a case it’s in our national interest,” said Mitchell. “It’s climate-change friendly not to have the Yukon burning diesel. And we can sell power back to Canada, rather than having them subsidizing us.”
It would take about a decade to get the Yukon’s grid linked to BC’s, he said.
In the interim, the Liberals plan to spin out a comprehensive energy strategy that would include an independent power production (IPP) policy and see net metering.
Independent power production would let industry and the private sector to sell power back to Yukon Energy’s grid. “This would allow mining companies interested in generating power to sell it back,” said Mitchell.
It would also diversify the economy and open the market to small-scale, environmentally friendly power projects, added Simon.
Similarly, net metering would allow individual energy consumers to sell excess power back to the grid.
The Liberals brought forward net-metering legislation last year, in the house.
“But the Yukon Party filibustered it,” said Mitchell.
The Liberals tried again, and this time the Yukon Party voted it down.
It’s the same with independent power production, the government has been “studying” it for years, he said.
“But we haven’t seen any action.”
Instead, Yukon Energy is burning more diesel to supply the territory’s new mines, he said.
“This is not environmentally friendly and the costs land on taxpayers,” said Mitchell.
To ensure affordable energy is available for all Yukon residents and businesses, the Liberals promise to look at “the effectiveness and long-term practicality of existing subsidies within and outside the current electricity rate structure; and encourages First Nation equity positions in energy development projects,” said Simon.
The Liberals also plan to explore new ways to further the development of geothermal energy, solar power, bio-energy, wind energy and micro-hydro sites in the Yukon.
“We need to diversify our energy options,” said Simon.
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