Increasing energy efficiency in Yukon homes and buildings was at the centre of $41.3 million in initiatives announced Friday afternoon in Whitehorse.
Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell, Yukon Housing Minister Pauline Frost and Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai held a joint
press conference to explain how the funding will be allocated over the next three years.
The money is to assist with retrofitting the public housing stock managed by Yukon Housing and providing builders with an incentive of up to $10,000 to build homes to higher building code standards.
Bagnell pointed out the 65 per cent of new homes in Whitehorse are already being built to a super-insulated standards.
“I want to take a moment to thank our local construction industry for enthusiastically embracing this incentive and for building new houses
that are the most energy efficient in Canada,” Pillai told a gathering at Titanium Way in the Marwell industrial area.
“We will work with First Nation governments, municipalities, businesses, landlords, and homeowners to deliver a suite of new and expanded energy retrofits programs over the next few years.”
Of the $41.3 million, $31 million is being contributed by Ottawa over the next three years from its Low Carbon Economy Fund, $8.6 million will come from the Yukon government and First Nations are expecting to contribute $1.7 million.
Bagnell emphasized increasing energy efficiency equals a reduction in the territory’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“We know that, now, more than ever, we need to take action on climate change,” Bagnell told the audience.
“A report this year showed that Canada is warming at twice the global rate, and here in the North, it’s three times that.
“Through the Yukon, communities are declaring climate emergencies, and back in the House of Commons we’re debating about whether or not the whole country should declare one.”
Bagnell said in addition to reducing carbon emissions, the funding will create jobs.
“It all adds up, and it pays off,” he said. “Because we know that in 2019, if you don’t have a plan for the environment, you don’t have a plan for the economy.”
The $31 million in federal funding will be shared among four initiatives:
• $17.8 million will go toward the territory’s Energy Efficiency Incentive Programs;
• $6.3 million will go toward retrofitting Yukon Housing’s social and staff housing.
• $5.2 million will be directed at the First Nation Energy Efficiency Program; and
• $1.7 million will be used to assist First Nations in retrofitting their community buildings.
Bagnell said it’s expected that retrofitting the community buildings will save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs.
The $10.3 million from the Yukon First Nation governments will be blended with the federal money to support two programs.
The minister for Yukon Housing said $8.4 million will be used to retrofit and upgrade the corporation’s housing stock, much of which is older.
“We understand the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to support our commitments to mitigate climate change,” said Frost. “Housing is an area where we can make a difference.”
Frost also noted how the funding will support Yukon jobs and Yukon businesses.
“There will be a lot of work available over the next three years to undertake these energy retrofits,” she said.
Frost said $6.9 million will be directed toward converting First Nation housing units into more energy-efficient homes.
“The result will be a reduction of heating costs for Yukon First Nations as well as reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.”
Among those invited to the announcement were potential clients for the efficiency programs, including Rev. Bev Brazier of the Whitehorse
The church will be undertaking a retrofit this summer.
“Whitehorse United Church strives to be faithful to creation and its Creator by being socially responsible, including minimizing our carbon
footprint,” Brazier said in a statement.
“We also work hard to make the best possible use of our limited financial resources. Consequently, when we identified the need to do some work on our church roof, we felt that we should take the opportunity to upgrade the insulation at the same time.
“Without the financial assistance offered by the Yukon government in this incentive program, upgrading the roof insulation would have been a financial hardship to the congregation.”
Also on hand was Ben Power, vice-president and co-founder of Solvest, a local company that specializes in the installation of solar energy systems that has installed solar panels on several buildings in the Marwell area.
Power mentioned how he got the business going by himself working in his parents’ basement back in 2015.
Today, Solvest employs just shy of 30 staff, he said.
In addition to installations in the Yukon, Power said, they’ve done work in the two other territories as well as in Manitoba and B.C.