Hydro lines seen on a snowy day in Whitehorse on April 9, 2022. The Yukon Party is calling for the Yukon Utilities Board to review the impacts on Yukoners’ power bills resulting from renting diesel generators. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Hydro lines seen on a snowy day in Whitehorse on April 9, 2022. The Yukon Party is calling for the Yukon Utilities Board to review the impacts on Yukoners’ power bills resulting from renting diesel generators. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Yukon Party calls for utilities board to review impacts of renting diesel generators on power bills

Official Opposition has been harping on the Yukon government over energy policy this spring sitting

The Yukon Party has been railing against the Yukon Liberal Party government’s energy policy in the Yukon legislature.

The Official Opposition is calling for the Yukon Utilities Board, the independent regulator, to conduct a review of the overall cost and the impacts on Yukoners’ power bills that will result from renting diesel generators.

Yukon Party MLAs have spent much of their time during question period this spring pressing the government about renting diesel generators for the foreseeable future while touching on a suite of other energy-related projects from the Atlin hydro power project (which the minister said April 19 faces an $80-million funding gap) to demand side management (DSM) programs, battery storage and Moon Lake pump storage expansion.

Energy, Mines and Resources Minister John Streicker has maintained that renting diesel generators is cheaper than owning a permanent plant and necessary for backup power and striving for climate targets that depend on sustainable, renewable infrastructure.

During debate on April 19, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon asked the minister several questions revolving around energy policy.

Streicker reconfirmed the government will be adding five diesel generators to its fleet, bringing it up to 22 in total in the next year. That includes placing diesel generators in Mayo near the Mayo A hydro plant, he said.

Streicker said the cost of setting up and renting diesel generators was $8.6 million, including $2.1 million for fuel, in 2020-21 and $3.7 million in 2021-22. He did not have the most recent numbers.

Over the past year the territory has produced 93 per cent of its electricity with renewables and seven per cent with thermal, both liquefied natural gas and diesel, he said.

Streicker noted the government has started conversations on grid connection to British Columbia and is exploring other avenues such as small modular nuclear reactors, hydrogen and longer-term storage.

“There is a whole bunch of ways that we are working on potential projects to explore them to see what their potential is, but the budget for the planning and the planning timeline are still to come,” he said.

Streicker said the numbers will get fleshed out over the summer and dollar amounts will be assigned later this year.

The Yukon Party stayed on topic the following day in question period.

“Over the course of the week, we have learned more and more about the deep flaws in the Liberal’s energy strategy,” Dixon said in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on April 20.

“They have banked our energy future on a series of projects that are now either delayed, over budget or simply not happening. The result is that Yukon will be renting dozens of rental generators for far longer than we predicted. What we still don’t know is what all of this will mean for Yukoners’ power bills.”

When asked by Scott Kent, Yukon Party MLA for Copperbelt South, in the final round of questions on April 20, Streicker refused to admit the government’s energy strategy is failing.

“In fact, long before I came into this assembly — and I spent much time in this territory looking at where we were trying to head on the energy front — the failure was with the Yukon Party,” Streicker said.

“What is the interest of the Yukon Party? To subsidize fossil fuels. That is why our oil companies are making money hand over fist. No, this is the wrong direction. With all of my heart and with everything I understand as a person who has worked in this field for many, many years, I say that is the wrong direction. Yes, there have been delays, for sure, but we are heading in the right direction.”

Kent said the minister’s energy future is “underpinned by fossil fuels” in the form of rented and permanent diesels.

“The minister admitted that the current 10-year renewable energy plan would not be able to meet the current projected demand. That means that there is no plan to get off rented diesels,” he said.

“He also announced that this summer, the Liberals would be launching a review of their plan and carrying out what he called a thorough process for updating the resource plan. Unfortunately, the Liberals now admit that their plan won’t meet the projected growth of demand, but we want to ensure that they don’t lose sight of the impact of this failure on the electricity bills of Yukoners.”

Kent asked the minister to consider the impact on ratepayers when the government renews and revisits its energy strategy this summer.

Streicker said the government “always” considers the impact on ratepayers.

“Second of all, we have in place now the 10-year renewable plan, which, as I said yesterday, I have directed the utility to go back and renew,” he said.

“We have, on top of that, a plan to look at a grid connection with British Columbia, meaning that this would be where growth happens over the long term. That is another direction that we should head in that is sustainable. I have also said that we need backup always.”

Dixon reiterated his party’s take to reporters in the foyer of the Yukon legislature following question period on April 20.

“The whole energy strategy is pinned on these projects coming online in a certain number of years. If they don’t come online in a certain number of years, we need to rent diesels. So, now we know that Atlin, at least, is uncertain. The DSM has been delayed. The battery has been delayed. Moon Lake has been pushed back into the 2030s,” Dixon said.

“All of these things contribute to a new set of circumstances that we find ourselves in: having to rent a significantly larger number of rentals than we ever thought and for a much longer time than we ever thought.”

On April 24, Brad Cathers, Yukon Party MLA for Lake Laberge, moved a motion urging the Yukon government to request the utilities board review the impact on ratepayers of the current plan of renting diesel generators.

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com