Wally Schumann: Arctic Energy and Emerging Technologies Conference Keynote Address

Delivered on June 13, 2017

Check against Delivery

Good morning everyone,

On behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories, I’m pleased to welcome you to Inuvik and the Arctic Energy and Emerging Technologies Conference.

For decades, Inuvik has been the energy hub of the Northwest Territories. Most importantly, it is a resilient community that has stood strong in the face of challenges presented by the commodity markets, and the decisions of the Federal government. For thousands of years Northerners have understood the need to adapt to the changing world around us, and this conference reflects that.

Inuvik has brought together energy producers and energy users to discuss ways to better serve our people, our environment and our industries. Transitioning away from expensive fossil fuels for home heating and electricity generation will be critical for reducing the cost of living for residents, and protecting the NWT environment. It will take time, innovative approaches and continued investment. I am confident this gathering of community leaders, industry professionals and entrepreneurial visionaries will identify solutions to our energy needs that will contribute to the future of our great territory.

Energy, the Environment and the Economy are distinct areas of importance to the Government of the Northwest Territories, but do not exist independently of one another. We have recognized the need for a unified approach and are taking steps to do that.

For the past year, the Government of the Northwest Territories has held joint public engagement sessions across the territory as part of the development of our Energy Strategy and Climate Change Strategic Framework. These sessions were designed to get input from residents on energy issues. What we heard was people want to be part of the process, they want to be informed, they want to contribute, and they want local solutions. Their input has been carefully considered in the development of our 2030 Energy Strategy, expected to be tabled in the fall of this year. We look forward to many new partnerships within our communities with a shared sense of purpose in fulfilling our energy goals.

We are making significant advances in renewable energy technology. The 136 kilowatts diesel-solar-battery project in Colville Lake is Canada’s first high penetration solar photo-voltaic technology integrated with a new diesel electric plant and energy storage system. In its first twelve months of operation, solar generation provided 19% of the community's energy needs, displacing 37,100 L of diesel fuel.

Later this year, NWT Power Corporation will complete the installation of the NWT’s first variable speed generator in conjunction with a 55 kilowatt solar project in Aklavik. This system will allow for higher integration of solar into the local grid and has the potential to improve the efficiency of the power plant by up to 10%.

The GNWT has invested in solar over the last number of years and boasts over 850 kilowatts of installed solar capacity across the territory, ranking the NWT second in Canada for installed solar capacity on a per capita basis.

We also spend millions each year on supporting the Arctic Energy Alliance to help residents, businesses and communities invest in simple energy conservation solutions, from LED light replacement programs, to community woodstove projects to building energy audits. These programs reflect what we already know: reducing our own energy consumption is the most cost effective way to impact our energy costs.

We are leaders in the installation of commercial-sized wood pellet boilers. Over 20 percent of the GNWT heating load is currently met with biomass and our government’s leadership has spurred a local industry, with many residents and commercial business switching to biomass. When the new Stanton Territorial Hospital comes online, 100% of its heat will be produced by two 1,250 Kilowatt pellet boilers that will avoid the use of 750,000 litres of propane, and avoid 1,675 tonnes of carbon emissions. We also continue to support NWT interests - not just to expand the use of biomass - but to manufacture wood pellets within our borders.    

While we continue to support the advancement of renewable energy technology projects, we are also fulfilling our commitments to Canada and the world. We’re working with our federal and Aboriginal partners within the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to find alternatives to diesel use in remote communities, increase hydroelectric potential, and further develop our biomass and solar resources. This contributes to Canada’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions as a signatory of the Paris Agreement. All of these actions align with the goals set out in the Canadian Energy Strategy, including energy sustainability and conservation, technology and innovation and energy delivery.

And when it comes to responsible resource development, the driver of our economic prosperity, green metals like lithium, nickel and cobalt that will be needed to meet the demand of clean technologies can also be found in our lands – and offer a very real opportunity for economic investment, development and prosperity in the NWT.

The GNWT has set out its priorities for the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and has identified two key priority areas for the Framework– a suite of projects for off-grid diesel communities and an expansion of the Taltson hydroelectric facility.

Like our Federal partners, we share the same priorities. We can capitalize on the innovative work we have already done to adapt to climate change, reduce the cost of living and transition to renewable energy sources to create increased benefits for the people of the Northwest Territories and help achieve national objectives. We cannot achieve these goals without significant investment from Canada, and look forward to making progress and to achieve our shared objectives.

Within the bundle of projects for off grid-diesel communities, we are investing in feasibility level work to plan and build a 2 to 4 Megawatt wind project here in the community of Inuvik near the airport. This project could save 1.3 million litres of diesel fuel annually and reduce community consumption in our largest diesel community by 20%.

Another initiative within the suite of Pan-Canadian Framework projects is the potential for small scale wind and storage in our coastal communities in the region. The GNWT is investigating such an initiative in Sachs Harbour, and recently received support from the community to erect a wind tower to confirm wind speeds in the area. Through the Aurora Research Institute here in Inuvik, the GNWT has supported its research efforts, specifically, the assessment of our wind resource across the NWT.  Through the excellent work carried out by the institute, we know that the wind resource is very good in the coastal communities in the high Arctic and we look forward to advancing that work.

The expansion of our existing Taltson hydroelectric facility by 60 Megawatts and connecting to the North American grid would reduce electricity rates and reduce the cost of living in the NWT. The benefits of this power project are significant. An expansion of the Taltson facility would reduce Canada’s GHG emissions by 360,000 tonnes annually for 50 years or more. It is a project that can create economic opportunities both locally and nationally, and meet national objectives of transitioning to a clean growth economy.

Canada wants to invest in projects that contribute to building a strong nation – this project is the perfect fit. However, we cannot accomplish this alone, and need the support of our Federal partners to assist us with the transition to a lower carbon economy.

Safeguarding the environment as we adapt to rapidly changing climatic conditions is a key priority of the Government of the Northwest Territories. The North’s unique ecosystem is critical to the health of the planet. The decisions we make about protecting biodiversity and ecological integrity serve not only the interests of NWT residents and other Canadians, but people around the globe. We are on the frontlines of climate change.

Our government is developing a Climate Change Strategic Framework, directly-linked to our 2030 Energy Strategy that will help guide us as we increase our knowledge of environmental changes and adapt to them through best practices and innovation. The Framework will address key themes and actions in the areas of mitigation and adaptation, monitoring, research and public engagement. When complete, it will articulate how we intend to address all relevant aspects of climate change, both in the short-term and long-term.

The recently completed Mackenzie Valley Fibre Optic Link will not only help modernize the economy and enable growth in all economic sectors up and down the valley and create new opportunities and investments, but it will contribute to our ability to study climate change in the circumpolar world, and help inform how we move forward with mitigation and adaptation.

The world is transitioning to a lower-carbon economy. As signatories to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, our Government is committed to its objectives. We are working with the federal government to find solutions to national carbon pricing that address our unique circumstances, including high costs of living, challenges with food security, and emerging economies.

This summer we will be engaging with NWT stakeholders and residents to examine the approaches to introduce carbon pricing. We are committed to reaching a “made in the NWT” solution that fulfils our commitments under the Pan-Canadian Framework while recognizing our unique circumstances and mitigating the implications for NWT residents and economy.

While our government moves forward with our green energy initiatives and work around climate change adaptation, it’s important we remember this work will take time, and that the economic opportunities that have provided for our residents for decades is still an important priority of this government.

We know that there has to be a sense of certainty for industry and government to make confident decisions about northern development. Settled land claims, land use plans and self-government agreements provide such certainty. The Inuvialuit and Gwich’in peoples--who host us today--are trailblazers in the finalization of land claims agreements, and have benefited greatly. Government-to-government cooperation is an essential part of the North’s foundation and legacy. Each level of government and organization has an important role to play and responsibilities to deliver upon. And in that, Aboriginal governments are essential partners in shaping the future and creating opportunities and prosperity in their communities and regions. Settled land claims will benefit the territory as a whole.

We have committed to advancing an Oil and Gas Strategy to attract oil and gas development back to our territory and will be engaging NWT residents and stakeholders this summer on its implementation and proposed evaluation framework. We know that these are challenging times for this sector. We must confirm our right to negotiate on the potential that exists off our Arctic coastline and to ensure the future of economic development in the petroleum-rich regions of our territory.

We’ve recently partnered with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to submit a proposal to the Federal government to explore the potential of natural gas sites along the soon-to-be finished Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway to assess the viability of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) to serve our communities. 

Our territory has many different energy resources that can be used to power our future.  We all have a part to play in ensuring that they are used safely and sustainably, and the first step is to understand what resources we have and how we can benefit from their use or development.  The information initiative that we are introducing at the conference this week is designed to connect NWT residents to the Resources and Energy Development Information that they will need to think and talk about the future.  Dubbed the REDI project, it addresses issues from oil and gas development, to alternative energy to climate change. We all play an important role in the economy of our territory, and I hope you’ll take the time to learn more about this important project.

We all know the challenges of living and operating in the North. We also know the enormous benefits that are possible. Such benefits are not won easily. It takes traditional knowledge, committed investment and a bit of daring-do.

I look forward to hearing all your ideas. I believe that as we envision, design and develop new ways to provide energy, opportunities will appear where there were none before.

Thank you.