(Check against delivery)
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank Councilor Cecilia Beaulieu from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation for her welcoming remarks. On behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories, I would like to also welcome you here this evening to discuss the energy opportunities and challenges facing the Northwest Territories today.
I first learned of the term “Charrette” when we held the first Energy Charrette two years ago to develop our Energy Plan and the Power System Plan. The 2012 Charrette brought together community representatives, Aboriginal governments, experts in the field of energy, industry, governments and non-government organizations to discuss the opportunities and challenges of providing energy in the north and to directly contribute to the development of energy policy and planning.
The challenges discussed in 2012 are the same challenges we are faced with today. The high cost of energy and the impact on our cost of living was a central theme. In response to this concern, the Power System Plan reflected a proposed transmission project to connect our North and South Slave electricity systems to the southern grid. This was seen as the type of transformational change required to reduce our cost of electricity.
Two years have passed, we have learned that a transmission grid connection to the south is beyond our fiscal capacity, and our rising cost of energy has not been abated. This was highlighted by the low water situation in the Snare hydro system and yet another proposed increase in electricity rates of 13% to cover the cost of additional diesel generation.
I have to say, I heard loud and clear the level of public outcry over this proposed rate increase. I heard it in the media, I heard it from Members of the Legislative Assembly.
While this rate increase was caused by low water conditions that occur regularly, every 12 to 15 years or so, I think it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
In response, the Government of the Northwest Territories took the extraordinary step of funding the estimated $20 million in costs due to low water conditions.
This brings me to the purpose of the 2014 Energy Charrette. We need to recalibrate our plans. Substantial subsidies are not sustainable and we need to consider the approach we take to energy in the long term.
Minister Miltenberger will speak some more about the long term approach, but it is clear that we need to consider a change if our communities are going to be sustainable, with a reasonable cost of living.
The Government of the Northwest Territories has made substantial investments in energy over the past three years:
- The Northwest Territories leads the country in the installation of commercial-sized wood pellet boilers that has spurred the development of an industry. Large Government of the Northwest Territories facilities now have heating costs equivalent to about 60 cents per litre of heating oil;
- The Government of the Northwest Territories has made substantial investments in enhancing the programs provided by the Arctic Energy Alliance, including the establishment of regional offices;
- There is a cutting edge solar-diesel hybrid system, backed up by batteries, currently being installed in Colville Lake; and
- Last year in Inuvik, we commissioned the first arctic Liquid Natural Gas facility in North America.
There is much that the Government of the Northwest is doing, but I think that we do not communicate with communities enough on our various initiatives. I would like to see greater efforts made in this area.
Our government is committed to change, including our government’s approach to energy projects, policy and planning. Effective April 1, 2015, energy functions across government will be restructured and consolidated within the Department of Public Works and Services.
We chose to consolidate energy within Public Works and Services because it is a project management focused department and we need greater efforts towards developing local and renewable energy projects that can help us reduce our reliance upon imported diesel.
One of the outcomes from the 2012 Energy Charrette was continued involvement of communities and Aboriginal governments in energy policy and planning discussions. I am pleased to see a number of representatives in attendance this evening who have agreed to participate in detailed discussions tomorrow.
The Government of the Northwest Territories also appreciates the input from those folks who have travelled here to contribute to our discussion. It is important to consider a variety of perspectives and emerging ideas as we chart our energy future.
You will hear shortly from Mr. Marlo Raynolds, former Executive Director of the Pembina Institute and currently Vice President of BluEarth Energy, a firm specializing in renewable energy systems.
I would also like to acknowledge:
- Our Member of Parliament, Mr. Dennis Bevington. Dennis has held a great interest in energy issues since I have known him and developed an Energy Strategy for the Northwest Territories a number of years ago;
- Mr. Axel Lambion of Lambion Energy Solutions has travelled to Yellowknife from Germany. Lambion specializes in biomass systems and has developed over 3,000 biomass plants around the world;
- Ms. Anouk Kendall, President of Decentralized Energy Canada, a non-profit association promoting local energy systems that can work for small communities;
- Ms. Liezl Van Wyk, Manager Operational Excellence with Diavik Diamond Mine. Ms. Van Wyk was responsible for the development of the wind farm at Diavik; and
- Members of the Canadian High Arctic Research station and researchers from Carleton University who are developing a ‘State of Arctic Energy’ report and who will share some of the latest developments in applying emerging energy technologies in the north tomorrow.
We also have a number of northern business representatives, non-government organizations, and others who are prepared to contribute to the discussion.
Thank you all for your time and agreeing to share your insights as we consider our path forward in the Northwest Territories.
This evening we are here to set some context and to engage in a public discussion. When we decided to hold this Energy Charrette, three questions came to mind:
- Is there more we can do in the short term to help residents and businesses cope with rising energy costs?
- Are there other actions or potential programs that the Government of the Northwest Territories should consider?
- What should be our approach to transforming our energy systems in the long term?
It will be important as we undertake these discussions to take current realities and research into account, particularly when it comes to understanding the costs to implement any solution and the length of time it will take before it has paid for itself.
I will look forward to the public discussion later this evening and to the various perspectives on these three questions.
I noted earlier that the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to change where it is required. We are currently in the second year of our three year energy plan, but if we need to change next year, 2015-2016, our government will commit to doing that.
In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone for joining us this evening and I would like to offer my encouragement to the Charrette participants as you engage in your discussions. I look forward to drawing upon your experience and expertise and to seeing the results.