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Yukon offers rebates for electric vehicles as part of green energy plan

The Yukon government presented on Monday its 72-page plan to tackle climate change and promote green energy over the next decade.

Government presents its 131-point plan to reduce emissions by 2030 and tackle climate change

'Folks, in 2030 Yukon will look different,' said Premier Sandy Silver at a news conference in Whitehorse on Monday. (Laura Howells/CBC)

The Yukon government is offering rebates of up to $5,000 to anybody who buys a new electric vehicle, and smaller rebates to people who buy zero-emission snowmobiles and e-bikes.

The initiative was was presented Monday as one part of the territorial government's ambitious plan to tackle climate change and promote green energy over the next decade.

The 72-page plan, entitled "Our Clean Future," commits the territory to reducing overall emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, compared with 2010 levels. The government also set a goal of zero net emissions by 2050.

The new 131-point plan follows a draft document that was presented last fall.

"Folks, in 2030 Yukon will look different," said Premier Sandy Silver at a news conference in Whitehorse on Monday.

"Fifty per cent of our heat will come from renewable energy. Our homes and buildings will be much more energy efficient. More people will use public and active transportation, taking the opportunity to ride the bus or bike to work."

In the short-term, the government says it is increasing the rebate for electric heating devices, and supporting local food producers in government procurement processes.

The Whitehorse hydroelectric dam. The government says a minimum of 93 per cent of energy on Yukon's grid will come from renewable sources by 2030. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The government says it will require a minimum of 93 per cent of energy on Yukon's grid come from renewable sources, with an "aspirational target" of 97 per cent by 2030. This will require "significant" spending on green energy projects, the plan says.

It says off-grid communities will use 30 per cent less fossil fuels, through community projects like the Kluane First Nation's wind farm and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation's solar project in Old Crow.

The plan does not yet set targets for the mining industry. Government officials say they will have intensity targets by the end of 2022.

To "change [mining] that dramatically is not easy work" said Energy Minister Ranj Pillai.

"We have to disrupt it in a way that we can still maintain the industry."

The plan presented Monday will only get Yukon to 75 per cent of its emission reduction targets. The government said it will update in 2024 to "close this gap."

'Milestone in Yukon's history,' minister hopes

Three-quarters of the territory's greenhouse gas emissions come from driving and heating, the plan says, so these will require "extensive modernization."

According to the plan, 54 per cent of the territory's emissions are from road transportation. The calculation is based on the federal government's National Inventory Report, and fossil fuel sales data in Yukon.

Electric vehicles will therefore play a role in reducing emissions, said Pillai. He said he wants to see the number of emission-free vehicles jump from 22 to 4,800 over the next decade.  The biggest part of the plan to reduce road emissions is requiring diesel and gasoline be blended with more energy-efficient substances such as ethanol and biodiesel by 2025.

He compared the government's new strategy to the arrival of the first airplane in Yukon, 100 years ago.

"It was a moment that changed Yukon forever. 'Our Clean Future' aims to be that kind of milestone in Yukon's history," Pillai said.

He said the government will develop a territory-wide electrified transportation network. That will require more charging stations scattered throughout the territory. Right now, there are 13 across the territory.

The plan will require more electric vehicle charging stations scattered throughout the territory. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"We're doing it because Yukoners are asking for it," Pillai said.

Pillai said the $5,000 rebates are being offered to Yukoners who buy electric vehicles because the technology has been proven to work in the territory. The rebates, which are retroactive to mid-November, are in addition to rebates provided by the federal government.

"Electric vehicles are proven to be reliable, consistent and efficient in our cold weather, with many Yukoners using their electric vehicles year-round without issues."

Higher electricity prices

The government says the climate change plan will cost $500 million over the next 10 years, with help from Ottawa.

Officials say a focus on renewable energy will create jobs and diversify the economy, but admit it may also mean higher electricity prices. Pillai said they'll try to avoid big jumps in rates.

"These are not easy processes and they will have a cost," he said. He noted that green energy projects are more likely to get funding from other sources.

The government says its plan may mean higher electricity bills for Yukoners. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The premier also said the government will report each year on progress made under the plan.

It's not clear, though, what might happen to the plan after the next election. There are no safeguards in place to ensure this plan will actually carry on if there's a new government.

The next territorial election must be called by next fall.

With files from Laura Howells and Paul Tukker

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