Reliable, affordable electricity, dependable heating, and efficient energy for transporting people and products allows an economy to thrive. Prosperity has massive impacts on the lives of residents, and more than anything, Yukoners deserve well-paying jobs, educational opportunities, and an improved quality of life, particularly those in small communities that don’t want to be forced to leave for a lack of prospects.
Energy security is central to this goal - it is the backbone of all economic growth. When it comes to power, most demand here is met through hydroelectricity from Yukon Energy – over 99%. But away from the main grid, many communities depend on diesel-produced electricity, often supplied by ATCO. A very small amount also comes from wind turbines.
Despite the benefits of hydro, it’s not a 100% solution. Diesel is usually the default for where or when hydro can’t work. In winter conditions, diesel use goes up substantially. And for those not living in a place served by Yukon Energy, diesel almost always being the only option translates to a reliance on imported diesel. For remote areas, this diesel often has to be trucked in.
Until renewables are fully ready to replace our energy needs, for all residents, this inefficiency is one we need to address, sooner rather than later for any realistic chance of better futures for the next generation. When growth is exactly what we need to overcome the challenges we face as a territory, the importance of energy can’t be forgotten considering that all fuels used here are imported and our power grid is one of only a few in North America entirely isolated from other locales, meaning we can’t buy power if we can’t produce enough of it.
The complexity of the import supply chain and lack of local alternatives determine just how far Yukon really is from self-sufficiency, and how urgent it is that we take action now to prevent stagnation in job creation, investment, and royalty and tax revenue. It ties further still into our dependence of federal transfers, which only perpetuates when the private sector lacks the tools to get going. These active risks play out and even get worse the longer we wait to act.
There’s a massive opportunity for progress here: a solid plan for energy self-reliance would lead us both to economic self-reliance and tangible benefit for the public. Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s move towards a brighter future.