Bob McLeod: Canadian Electricity Association - Today's Electricity and Energy Priorities in the Northwest Territories

Delivered on June 20, 2018

Check Against Delivery 

Thank you for asking me to speak to you today. The Northwest Territories has an abundance of energy resources, including world class reserves of oil and gas and hydro potential from rivers and lakes of an estimated 11,000 Megawatts that have the capacity to generate electricity on the scale of James Bay or Churchill Falls, much of it still untapped.

As Canada continues to look for better and more efficient ways to meet its current and future energy needs, it is important that the Northwest Territories is part of the conversation and part of an integrated national solution, so I am pleased to be here with you today.

Governments and organizations set their priorities for today by having a clear picture of what they want the future to look like.

A little less than a year ago I met with my fellow Northern Premiers to discuss the kind of future we envisioned for Northerners. 

Our Pan-Territorial Vision of Sustainable Development made it very clear; our people deserve every opportunity for economic success and a high quality of life.

We also all agreed that economic prosperity for Northerners should not come at the expense of respecting and sustaining our land.

This future is possible.

It requires leadership and partnership between stakeholders, our northern governments, the federal government and most importantly our Indigenous organizations and governments.

Energy is going to be a critical piece of how we make this vision of a sustainable future a reality. High energy costs contribute to cost of living for our residents and create challenges to economic development and diversification.

This is especially true in the 25 of 33 Northwest Territories communities where standalone diesel generation is the only realistic energy option right now. The irony is, these are also some of the Northern communities most affected by climate change, at the same time as they are forced to depend on a carbon-intensive energy source.

To help us address this challenge, the Government of the Northwest Territories prioritized the completion of the 2030 Energy Strategy, the Climate Change Strategic Framework and the Petroleum Resources Strategy.

These documents were not created in silos; they align with one another and create a real foundation on which to build our long term vision for a prosperous, sustainable Northwest Territories.

For its part, our Energy Strategy details how we will create a more secure, affordable and sustainable energy system.

While the Strategy and our three-year Energy Action Plan detail the actions that we are doing now, for true transformational change in the Northwest Territories, we need transformative projects like the Taltson Hydropower Expansion.

Without a project like Taltson, the shared vision of creating strong communities, a stable and diversified economy and clean environment, continues to be a dream.

Our Prime Minister talks about wanting to grow the middle class by making sure that people have access to good jobs that pay them well. He speaks of needing to take action on climate change now if we are to remain a strong, healthy society going forward.

The people of the Northwest Territories want the same thing. By working together on transformational projects, the vision we had as Northern Premiers can become a reality.

Creating a more secure, affordable and sustainable energy system in the Northwest Territories is essential to achieving our potential and the quality of life that residents deserve.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is taking the steps to build this system in a way that prioritizes the development of clean, affordable energy alternatives because our people know all too well what climate change looks like.

From shifting animal migration routes to slumping buildings, Northerners know first-hand and from painful experience why we must do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That is why along with pursuing the economic interests of our people, our government takes seriously the commitments made under the Pan-Canadian Climate Change Framework.

Our Energy Strategy sets achievable sectoral targets, including a twenty-five percent reduction in diesel use in our remote communities, and provides a firm basis with which to engage and empower communities to work with us to find energy solutions that work for them.

Over the next three years our rolling Energy Action Plan has committed the Government of the Northwest Territories and its partners to approximately $180 million dollars to support energy initiatives and programs.

This includes partnering with community and Indigenous governments on local renewable energy projects, enhancing the programs that the Arctic Energy Alliance delivers to encourage energy conservation and efficiency, and investing in larger energy projects like the Inuvik Wind Project.

Finding solutions that work for our people and engaging them as partners is not just lip service. This is a priority of our government.

The proposed location for the Inuvik Wind Project is located within the Gwich’in Settlement area. In advancing the project towards a construction decision later this year, the Government of the Northwest Territories engaged with the Gwich’in, Inuvialuit, Town of Inuvik and other local stakeholders.

This engagement included a traditional knowledge and land use workshop with Gwich’in and Inuvialuit Elders, land-users and local youth.  From these efforts we learned about how people use the area for hunting, trapping, berry picking and other traditional uses.

Wind energy in Inuvik would reduce the community’s diesel use, could provide up to $3 million dollars in fuel savings and would offset up to 4,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

While wind energy in Inuvik is promising, we continue to look at all energy solutions and technologies that can help our communities.

Natural gas, solar, small wind, generator efficiency, battery solutions and mini hydro are all options that our government has or will be pursuing to make good on our commitment to build a sustainable energy system.

Our government understands the connection between energy, economic development, cost of living, and quality of life. That is why we have consistently been early adopters of technologies like biomass and have supported new and emerging technologies.

For example, in Colville Lake, a community of 160 people, we worked with the community and the Government of Canada to install a high-penetration solar solution. This resulted in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions previously created by diesel use, by 25 percent.

While these efforts and priorities are making a difference in our communities, they are not the only way we can work towards the shared sustainable development future that we have for Northerners.

If we are going fuel the next wave of growth and investment that our people deserve and are ready for, we need to do more.

If we are going to achieve the transformative change that the federal government has outlined in the Pan-Canadian Climate Change Framework, then we need support for transformational projects.

Transformational projects in the Northwest Territories are all about creating energy and transportation corridors. Energy corridors that connect communities and investors to clean, reliable energy, and transportation corridors that connect people and communities to one another and to the rest of Canada.

Expanding our existing Taltson hydroelectric facility would create real and lasting benefits for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Northerners.

A Phase 1 expansion would grow the capacity of Taltson from its current 18 Megawatt capacity to 60 Megawatts with no additional flooding. A Phase 2 expansion of Taltson could see the power generation grow to 115 Megawatts by 2040 and up to 200 Megawatts by 2050. 

The possibilities that would be created by connecting communities and mines to clean hydro in the territory are endless. So are the opportunities that would emerge by successfully connecting clean Northwest Territories hydro-power to the continental grid by way of a 200 kilometre transmission line to Saskatchewan

The Taltson project is the embodiment of responsible, sustainable resource development and job creation.

A project of this magnitude could not be undertaken by our government alone, but would require outside investment. This could create partnership and investment opportunities for many, including the federal government, Indigenous governments and groups, and private industry. Not only would this help finance the project, it would also create more ways for potential partners to directly participate in and benefit from the project at the same time as we are transforming our energy sector.

New research into options like a submarine cable and high voltage direct current transmission line, has the potential to make the business case for investment even more attractive.

Our northern governments have shared their vision for sustainable development and are working together with Canada on the federal Arctic Policy Framework. We hope that this framework will include the types of commitments that the people of the Northwest Territories need to guarantee their future.

But we are not sitting back and waiting for that future to materialize. We are taking steps now, with our partners, to set the groundwork for the transformational projects that we know are the key to our long term social and economic development.

While continuing to invest in the initiatives, programs and projects identified in our Energy Strategy, we are advancing work this year that will focus on looking at the technical elements of interconnecting the Snare and Taltson hydro systems by crossing Great Slave Lake.

The Northwest Territories is ready. Our people are ready for projects that will create jobs, empower our Indigenous partners, and will strengthen our communities.

We are ready to grow existing and new sectors of the economy, and through the realization of the Taltson project, are ready to contribute to the national economy and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Our energy and electricity priorities in the Northwest Territories are centered around our people, just as our Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development is.

We have identified that building an energy system off of Taltson would be a game changer for our people. And we will continue to work with our Indigenous, community, industry and stakeholder partners to demonstrate to Canada just how transformative and far-reaching the benefits of investing in this project will be.

We want strong communities, good paying jobs, and a way for people to choose to stay and live in the Northwest Territories. We want an environment that sustains us through its natural resources and supports our wildlife and residents. How we achieve this will rely on the willingness of all partners, including the Government of Canada, to share the vision we have for Northerners and to invest to make it a reality.

Thank you.