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Climate change money getting squeezed
Bromley laments dwindling funds for renewable energy

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, June 9, 2012

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley is worried that the territorial government is losing its zeal to research renewable energy projects to fight climate change.

NNSL photo/graphic

Bob Bromley: Weledeh MLA says renewable energy initiatives need more funding than what's in the current budget. - NNSL file photo

His motion requesting additional funding for energy management and planning sailed through the legislative assembly May 31 but he is worried cabinet members across from him Ė all of whom abstained Ė are retreating from the fight against climate change as they seek ways to cut costs in tough economic times.

"It is time for this government to get serious about renewable energy and fully realize the potential to reduce our costs and and support our businesses and people in a responsible way," said Bromley.

He said over the past four years, renewable energy projects such as wind turbines, solar panels, and wood pellet boilers are proven to reduce costs, create jobs, support local economies and has developed a new Northern economic sector.

"In the absence of real action, energy costs will go on soaring until we get down to it."

In the 2012-2013 budget, funding for renewable energy research dropped to $3.5 million from $7.2 million last year. The funding for energy planning was reduced to $1.6 million from $6.5 million.

Bromley said moving away from renewable energy sources while relying on unpredictably priced fossil fuels is essential to controlling the cost of living and business in the NWT.

In the 2012-1013 budget, the territorial government earmarked $15.6 million to offset a portion of the NWT Power Corporation's rate increase. But, Louie Azzolini, executive director at Arctic Energy Alliance, said providing subsidies isn't helping anyone with costs in the long run.

"At the end of the day, whenever you provide a subsidy you're trying to distort the economy," said Azzolini.

"You can't continue to subsidize indefinitely, there's a breaking point and that breaking point is soon."

Robert Hawkins, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, is against adding more funding to energy planning and management. He, along with Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche, were the only two MLAs to vote against Bromley's motion.

"I'm in favour of energy initiatives, but this is about good management," said Hawkins.

"I know if you speak against it, you sound bad."

Hawkins said the $60 million in climate change money the previous government invested over four years went into a lot of projects, but there hasn't been a noticeable difference.

"There are projects that actually make a good return and Iíve seen certain cases where pellet boilers in schools and even at the legislative assembly here had a refocus on how we use energy," said Hawkins.

"But during these times of restraint, we have to actually worry about what actually works and actually makes money. Sixty million dollars didnít pay for three pellet boilers, it paid for a lot of projects that didnít work."

Azzolini disagrees. "Look around Yellowknife, the take up of some of the renewable energy initiatives have been really popular," he said.

Hawkins said MLAs need to figure out ways to invest in energy initiatives properly, and reinstating the funds is not the automatic response that is needed.

"My concern is that this would be the same thing over again," said Hawkins.

"There's no plan or anything for where additional funds would go, I just can't support something without a plan."

Bromley said that although his motion passed, it doesn't necessarily mean anything will change.

"It's a recommendation," he said.

"But by deferring the budget it has the potential to make big changes."

Bromley said he understands where members like Hawkins are coming from.

"That's a natural diversity of opinion," he said.

"They may be concerned about pulling resources away from their regions, but a long term energy solution would benefit every region."

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