The Northwest Territories (NWT) has released its plan for energy security and carbon reduction through to 2030 in three separate but intertwined documents published May 1, 2018: the 2030 Energy Strategy: A Path to More Affordable, Secure and Sustainable Energy in the Northwest Territories, the 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework, and the NWT Petroleum Resources: A Path to Northern Benefits and Energy Security.
Though there are several elements to the NWT’s new energy and climate change strategies, success hinges on one project, the Taltson Hydro Expansion. It’s an ambitious and enormously expensive project, one that the territory admits it cannot take on without a lot of help from the federal government.
According to the 2030 Energy Strategy, with Taltson the territory has a shot at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Without it, it hasn’t a prayer.
The need to put a price on carbon is addressed in the 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework. The territory has committed to pricing carbon along the lines of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change but has offered no details on how it plans to do it, except that it will be in place in 2019.
But by far the lion’s share of emission reductions will come from a cut in fossil fuel use as outlined in the 2030 Energy Strategy. The NWT’s 2030 greenhouse gas emission target is 1,094 kilotonnes (kt). That’s 517 kt below 2016 levels. Targets include cutting emissions from diesel-powered electricity generation by 25%, reducing emissions from transportation by 10% per capita, increasing the share of renewable energy used for space heating to 40%, and increasing residential, commercial, and government building energy efficiency by 15%.
But of the needed 517-kt reduction, 227 kt are slated to come from Taltson, an 18-MW hydro plant that could be expanded to a 60-MW plant and would cut deeply into industrial emissions, according to the 2030 Energy Strategy. The project would also be connected to the southern grid, generating additional revenue for the territory and contributing to national emission reduction goals.
However, the price tag of Taltson — estimated at between $700 million and $1 billion — is beyond the territory’s reach.
“The Taltson development requires Government of Canada support to proceed,” according to the 2030 Energy Strategy. “Without federal support for Taltson, the NWT will not be able to reach its target.”