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The push to get off diesel
Ambitious new energy plan lays road map to expand power grids, increase renewable energy investment

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, December 21, 2013

The GNWT has pledged to reduce the territory's reliance of diesel fuel for power generation by investing in alternative energy and expanding the power grids in the North and South Slave regions.

NNSL photo/graphic

Mark Henry, left, of ITI's Energy Planning Division, and Andrew Stewart of NT Energy discuss the GNWT's new energy plan at the legislative assembly on Dec. 17. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

"Our objective was to lower our energy costs, which is very important," said Premier Bob McLeod.

In its NWT Energy Action Plan and Power System Plan released on Dec. 17, the government outlines both a $31.5-million investment in renewable technologies over the next three years, and proposes a $500-million-to-$700-million transmission line that would link the Taltson hydro system in the South Slave to the Snare system in the North.

That transmission link could be operational within five years, but the business case for such an investment -- which relies on Ottawa raising the GNWT's $800-million borrowing limit -- relies on having mines and other industrial projects in the North Slave purchase power from the system.

"A customer base large enough to sustain this kind of investment is going to require industrial loads," said Andrew Stewart, manager of business development with NT Energy. "The only way to make this happen is economies of scale. To get close to a business case, we need industrial customers on the system."

Investment in renewable energy

In its efforts to get off imported diesel, the GNWT is increasing its investments in biomass, solar, wind and liquified natural gas (LNG) for the next two years.

Biomass funding project will increase to $275,000 per year in 2014-15, up from $225,000 in the current fiscal year.

"We have a lot of biomass in the Northwest Territories," said McLeod. "Our expectation is that we can create our own sustainable manufacturing facility so that we can supply our own wood pellets."

Solar PV electricity project funding will increase to $500,000 per year in 2014-15, up from $250,000.

The cost of solar continues to drop, making the technology more competitive, said Wade Carpenter, alternative energy specialist with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

For example, the Fort Simpson solar project installed by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment in 2012 cost $12.50 per watt. Meanwhile, the proposed Colville Lake solar project is expected to cost $6.60 per watt to install.

The Storm Hills wind monitoring project near Inuvik is expected to be completed by the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, and at that point a decision can be made on whether wind turbines should be installed.

"Storm Hills is looking like the best option for wind in the territory," said Stewart, adding the Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk highway makes the project, which is located roughly 60 km from Inuvik, more feasible.

Inuvik Mayor Floyd Roland welcomed the news about Storm Hills.

"I have informed the minister that if they were serious in investing in such a project, he would have our co-operation," he stated in an e-mail response.

For now, Inuvik is relying on LNG being trucked in from Vancouver. A new storage facility for the fuel is expected to be operational by the end of January.

While LNG is an imported fuel, it burns cleaner and comes cheaper than diesel. With this in mind, the GNWT is establishing supply chains in order to bring the fuel to communities that have year-round road access.

Since taking control over the governance of power generation in 1988, the GNWT has produced several energy plans and strategies.

Now, the next step is to make the current strategies a reality, said McLeod.

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