Wally Schumann: Update on Energy Strategy and Initiatives

Mr. Speaker, transitioning away from expensive fossil fuels for home heating and electricity generation will be critical for reducing the cost of living for NWT residents and protecting the NWT environment, but it will take time, innovative approaches and continued investment. I would like to update Members on some of the work that Public Works and Services is doing this year to support the use of energy efficient technologies, as well as increase the production of renewable and alternative energy in the NWT.

The Department will be undertaking several key initiatives this year as we strive to make energy in the NWT more sustainable.

We are developing a new Ten-Year Energy Strategy to guide our long-term approach to energy, a strategy to address energy security and affordability, as well as address the environmental impacts of energy in the NWT. This new strategy will focus on energy efficiency, as well as on renewable and alternative energy.

To inform this strategy, the Departments of Public Works and Services and Environment and Natural Resources will partner to host a number of regional public engagement sessions in the coming weeks. We will ask questions and listen to suggestions about how we will deal with issues concerning energy and concerning climate change.

The GNWT will host regional engagement sessions in Fort Simpson, Inuvik, Norman Wells, Fort Smith, Hay River and Yellowknife. We will bring in stakeholders from surrounding communities and provide venues in which community voices can be heard. We will also host open houses in each of these centers so that the general public may ask questions and provide feedback.

I am pleased to announce that Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is our partner in these engagement sessions, and have contributed $250,000 to help us fund this initiative.

The GNWT has also been in discussions with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada about securing additional funding support to deliver other energy initiatives. These initiatives include LED lighting upgrades, solar panels on public housing in Inuvik, and a combined heat and power pilot project in Fort Simpson.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT has made a commitment in its mandate to continue to investigate and implement renewable and alternative energy solutions to replace diesel. While working towards a new long-term strategic direction for energy, we continue to undertake many initiatives to support efficiency, as well as renewable and alternative energy projects.

One of those initiatives in Aklavik, has the GNWT working with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation to install a special high efficiency variable speed generator combined with 40 kilowatts of solar power to reduce the community’s dependence on diesel for electricity.

The Department is also assessing the feasibility of installing a large wind turbine project in Inuvik. This project, up to four megawatts in size, has the potential to displace up to 5,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas in our largest thermal community.

The Department of Public Works and Services is also finding ways to reduce electricity costs in thermal communities. A tender was recently awarded to a northern Alberta supplier for the supply of liquefied natural gas to Inuvik. This replaces the supply of LNG from southern BC, allowing us to increase shipments and reduce transportation costs, displacing more diesel fuel and reducing the cost of power generation to government by $300,000 to $400,000 each year.

Mr. Speaker, we also continue to focus on energy efficiency and conservation throughout the NWT. This year we are providing the  Arctic Energy Alliance with $3.5 million to deliver energy programs to residents, business and governments. The LED swap out project will distribute 10,000 LED light bulbs in thermal communities this year, providing residents with energy efficient and cost saving alternative to traditional light bulbs. Households that receive bulbs will save an average of about $300 annually, and the project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 380 tonnes per year. 

The GNWT has also made a mandate commitment to work with our partners in the federation and in the territory to implement a Canadian Energy Strategy. Public Works and Services is actively involved in this work, in particular, participating in the Pan-Canadian Task Force on Reducing Diesel in Remote Communities, another of our mandate commitments,  which is tasked with exploring solutions to reduce diesel fuel use in the 300 off-grid communities throughout Canada.

We know that part of finding those solutions is to partner with stakeholders here at home. A Pan-Canadian Summit on Reducing Diesel in Remote Communities will be held in Winnipeg this November, and I’m pleased to report that Public Works and Services has invited the Arctic Energy Alliance, the NWT Power Corporation and representatives from seven NWT Aboriginal governments to join with us and with stakeholders from across Canada at this meeting.

Mr. Speaker, we are doing a lot of important work to address energy security and affordability, as well as to address the environmental impacts of energy in the NWT. We will continue to engage with the federal government, seeking support to implement our long-term energy strategy. As we develop our long-term approach we will work closely with the appropriate standing committees, communities, governments and other stakeholders to ensure we address the energy issues that Northerners find important.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.