Yukon government under fire for pausing renewable energy rebate program

Solar panels are installed on a home in Nova Scotia. The Yukon government’s rebate program for residential installation of renewable energy systems, such as solar, is being put on pause until next year. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

By Ariana Kelland · CBC News

‘The program’s been a great success. And just to sort of put it on pause right now is a real head-shaker’

Critics are blasting the Yukon government for quietly putting a renewable-energy rebate program on hold until at least next spring.

“Super disappointing. Defies logic,” said Mitt Stehlin, a certified energy assessor in Whitehorse, who’s previously worked with the territorial government on the energy efficiency of homes.

“We’re just getting started, and the program’s been a great success. And just to sort of put it on pause right now is a real head-shaker.”

Under the territory’s micro-generation program, Yukoners connected to the electrical grid who install solar or another renewable energy system to a site can receive an annual reimbursement for any surplus energy fed into the grid.

It appears the government didn’t publicly notify residents of the change in tack.

A territorial government spokesperson told CBC News in a written statement that the program was being put on hold in Whitehorse and the surrounding area until at least the end of May 2024, to study “the impact of adding additional variable renewable energy to the Yukon’s main grid.”

“Temporarily pausing this program gives us time to complete the work needed to ensure that Yukoners do not experience disruptions in service,” the statement reads.

Yukon’s Energy Minister, John Streicker, was not immediately available for an interview.

‘Energy audit emergencies’

Stehlin says he doesn’t get why a pause is necessary. He says since the program was introduced, there’s been a “flood of people” installing solar panels at home.

“We had energy audit emergencies — people were in such a rush to get the solar panels up that we were overwhelmed for about two years,” Stehlin said.

“You’ve had industry ramp up in order to meet the demand and now all of a sudden you’re going to leave them high and dry for six months? I think that’s the bigger impact, in my mind.”

Stehlin says even with that growing demand, solar still makes up a small percentage of the power produced in the Yukon — so he has a hard time seeing why the impact needs to be assessed through a study.

“I could certainly see it if we’re looking at a larger percentage being produced,” he said.

MLA Scott Kent of the opposition Yukon Party is frustrated at the government’s lack of transparency.

“We would have hoped to to see a government news release on something like this, so that those individuals in the private sector that install or do the energy audits would have a better idea of what was going on,” Kent said.

“The one thing that we’re certain of is the uncertainty that they’ve created.”

Decision on the rebate program “so, so frustrating” says MLA

Kent calls the rebate program an important economic driver for the territory, with positive impacts for the environment. Pausing it indefinitely, he says, is part of what he calls the “disastrous energy policies” of the Liberal government.

The Yukon government aspires to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent within the decade. Investing in renewable energy projects is a pillar of that goal.

NDP MLA Lane Tredger also calls the decision on the rebate program “so, so frustrating.”

“We have people who are willing to invest their own money into renewable energy, which we desperately need. We’re in a climate crisis,” Tredger said.

“They’ve known for years that the grid was struggling and now we’re at a point that, because of their inaction and their lack of planning, we’re shutting down renewable projects. And that is such a shame.”

-With files from Mike Rudyk and Dave White

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: N.W.T. premier says he wants complete carbon tax exemption for territory, CBC News

Norway: Will the green transition be the new economic motor in the Arctic?, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sweden’s climate policies closer to reaching goals, Radio Sweden

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