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Yukon minister green lights EV incentives, gets pressed on solar program

John Streicker told MLAs last fall that utility providers requested pause on microgeneration program
A vehicle powers up at a charging station located in the parking lot outside the Yukon legislative building on March 25. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

The Yukon government is pressing the brakes on a program that allows Yukoners to connect renewable electrical generation systems for homes and businesses to the grid, while giving the green light to rebates for commercial electric vehicles (or EVs), boats and all-terrain vehicles and charging stations.

Energy, Mines and Resources Minister John Streicker made a ministerial statement about the latter, and was questioned about the former by Lane Tredger, Yukon NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre, in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on March 21.

Streicker alerted the house last fall that utilities told him to pause the microgeneration program for homes and businesses, which went into effect under the former Yukon Party government in October 2013.

Streicker said the Yukon Energy Corporation and ATCO Electric Yukon flagged their concerns to him about the cause and frequency of blackouts. He said the utilities said they were no longer going to support microgeneration program applications.

“It wasn’t us, as a government,” he said.

A Sept. 12, 2023, letter from ATCO Electric Yukon to deputy minister Lauren Haney identifies the limits on penetration of intermittent renewable generation (like solar) in isolated communities. It claims that continued program expansion may lead to reliability issues with more widespread events or outages caused by power quality issues and “upward pressure on electric rates and unnecessary increases of emissions.”

A Dec. 14, 2023, press release notes that new microgeneration program applications are being paused in Whitehorse, Teslin and Carcross while the Yukon government works with utilities to study adding variable renewable energy to the grid.

The study is anticipated to be done by May, per the release.

“We will then listen to what the utilities tell us through that review,” Streicker said on March 21.

The microgeneration program’s target of seven megawatts was reached seven years ahead of the plan.

At 1.1 per cent of total power generation the Yukon falls in second place, behind Ontario, for solar production compared to other Canadian jurisdictions.

Tredger wondered about the negative long-term impacts of a pause on the solar industry.

“It’s pretty disappointing to hear that the Liberals, through their Crown corporations, are blocking renewable energy projects during a climate crisis,” Tredger said.

“The sudden shutdown of an entire industry is devastating to the companies and people who make their living installing home solar panels.”

Tredger criticized the governing Yukon Liberal Party for failing to inform Yukoners of what the government is doing to get the program “back on track.” They asked what the minister’s plan is for stabilizing the grid for future projects.

Streicker said he will “listen to the experts” about grid stability.

“That is what I was doing then, and that is what I am going to do now. This is not a political decision. This is about making sure that the lights in our homes can turn on when someone flips the switch. It is about making sure that the energy is reliable,” he said.

Streicker added that the Yukon grapples with a shortage of winter energy and an excess of summer energy.

“Unfortunately, with solar panels, they provide more summer energy than they do winter energy. The thing that will make them great is if we get to seasonal storage,” he said.

The December release states the program intake is on hold until May 31.

As for the “clean transportation incentive” known as the Good Energy Rebate, the Yukon government is expanding the program to cover electric commercial medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, boats, all-terrain vehicles and other modes of electric transportation.

Rebates of up to $2,500 based on battery size are available for things like electric boats, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. Rebates of up to $10,000 are on offer for commercial electric vehicles.

The rebate for Level 2 electric vehicle chargers has doubled, so people and businesses can get up to $1,500 back when installing charging stations at home and at work.

In the legislature, Streicker commented on the government’s goals: reducing emissions by 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030, getting 4,800 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030 and installing 200 Level 2 chargers.

“These targets are ambitious, but there are concrete steps we can take to get us there,” he said.

One step, he said, is by electrifying the Yukon’s roadways.

As of Jan. 1, there were 326 light-duty zero-emission vehicles and 16 medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles registered in the territory, per Streicker. In total, 1,148 rebates have been issued for electric bicycles since 2020 and 63 rebates have been issued for Level 2 charging stations.

The Yukon government has installed 19 electric vehicle charging stations, “making all road-accessible communities accessible by electric vehicles,” Streicker said.

Scott Kent, Yukon Party MLA for Copperbelt South, indicated the government is behind on meeting targets for getting more electric vehicles on the road. He said that the Our Clean Future annual report has the territory at around 1,000 electric vehicles this year.

Kent asked what the cost of the rebates will be for the remaining number of vehicles required to meet the target.

He welcomed the private sector getting an opportunity to install and charge for charging, but wondered when the Yukon government will begin charging electric vehicles owners to use the Yukon government charging stations.

“Just to recap our concerns, our greenhouse gas emissions without mining have increased over 2010 levels. We have six years to hit the legislated target of a 45-per-cent reduction. Additional reliable power generation will largely be covered by the minister’s ever-growing fleet of rented diesels. Electric vehicle sales are lagging and won’t ramp up until after 2026. We are less than 10 per cent toward our target for [electric vehicle] charging stations, and the budget has been reduced for that line item,” Kent said.

“We have no idea what the cost will be to subsidize [electric vehicle] sales, to upgrade our power grid, and of additional generation and who will pay for those costs.”

Tredger wondered where the electricity would come from to power these vehicles since, as they suggested, grid connection to British Columbia is “a minimum of 10 years and billions of dollars away.”

Tredger asked how the minister would solve problems like homeowners having to pay for expensive upgrades to the grid to have a fast charger and at what point does the grid max out.

“Electric cars are an important piece of how we can reduce our emissions, but they do nothing to make our world more fair or more just. Only people who can afford new vehicles can benefit from these rebates,” they said.

“Ultimately, the people whom these rebates help the most are people in our society with money. I think it’s good that we are supporting people with a lot of spending power to use that spending power in a way that helps to reduce emissions, but it does not create a more fair and just society.”

Streicker responded that 90 per cent of energy on the main grid comes from renewable sources.

“And we do need to add energy to our grid. In fact, that’s what we have been talking about all along,” he said, nodding to the four wind turbines recently brought online in Whitehorse and a battery project that’s coming online later this year.

Streicker said electric bikes are more accessible than electric vehicles, and the government has rebated three times as many bicycles as it has electric vehicles.

“The one difference between us and the Yukon Party is that they would like to invest in fossil fuels for electricity generation, and we don’t think that is the right direction to go in,” Streicker said.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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