Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee for having invited me here today to discuss the opportunities and challenges of resource development in northern Canada.
My remarks today will focus on the integral role of electricity as a critical enabler of this development.
Every day, the members of the Canadian Electricity Association, or CEA, produce, transport and distribute electricity to industrial, commercial, residential and institutional clients throughout Canada. The energy we produce, transport and sell is essential for our activities at home, at work and for the entire economy.
I want to mention, for the purposes of your study, that the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and Yukon Energy are active members of the association.
When it's their turn to host CEA meetings, it's always a highlight for our members and my colleagues who are fortunate to travel to Canada's north and experience first-hand one of the most breathtaking and amazing places in the world.
Today, I'll focus on resource development in the north, but in the context of challenges faced by Canada's electricity system at large.
I think it's also important to note that these challenges north of 60 are not dissimilar from those faced by CEA members who operate in northern, and sometimes remote, regions of geographically vast provinces where significant resource development is under way, particularly in the mining sector, which I know the committee has already been examining.
Canada's electricity is a fundamental pillar of our economy.
We often talk about natural resources as being at the heart of the Canadian economy, but we rarely talk about the crucial role of electricity. Canada's bulk power system is the largest and most complex interconnected system in North America. It's safe, sturdy and very reliable. Our competitive rates, which are lower than those of most other countries in the world, continue to be one of the dominant aspects of our system and ensure a formidable competitive advantage for Canadian companies.
This advantage is a product of the foresight of our parents' and grandparents' generations who built the electricity infrastructure that has served us so well for decades.
In that sense, electricity policy in Canada has been a de facto industrial strategy for many years.
So what is the electricity profile of Canada's north? If you refer to the transmission map on the first page of the materials that we circulated, you'll notice immediately that Canada's north is isolated from the North American high voltage grid. Most of the north relies on self-contained grids.
The graph on the next page provides an overview of the different types of electricity generation currently used in the north. The vast majority of generation in Yukon and a significant portion in the Northwest Territories comes from hydro. Nunavut almost exclusively uses diesel generation.
A bit of solar and wind energy is currently produced in the three territories, but it is a very small part of the electricity picture in the north, so little that Statistics Canada did not include it in the data used to produce this graph. Nevertheless, there is a little bit.
Reliance on diesel in the north has significant consequences on price, reliability and the environment. It is also a huge energy challenge for the north, in particular for remote communities. The three territorial governments have expressed a commitment to increasing the use of renewable resources like wind, solar and tidal energy.
However, while they are important, these generation sources are not well suited to support major resource development projects that require larger, more dependable capacity.
To power major resource development projects in the north, a new and expanded electricity infrastructure will be required. As the map I provided illustrates, connecting to the continental grid to access the supply would require the construction of major transmission infrastructure.
New baseload generation capacity in the north, a hydro project for example, would constitute a major electricity infrastructure project that would also require new transmission capacity to service multiple communities and projects.
In both cases, we are talking about big projects. Any discussion on major expansion of electricity infrastructure in the north must also include a discussion on similar challenges in the rest of the country.
According to a recent report by the Conference Board of Canada, 347.5 billion dollars would have to be invested between 2011 and 2030 to meet electricity needs and ensure Canada's energy future.
This is a priority for our association and for Canada's electricity sector.
The barriers to this infrastructure renewal are magnified for projects in the north, particularly in terms of cost and, most importantly, social licence. I'm referring primarily to the many aboriginal communities in the north whose acceptance and participation in projects are absolutely essential.
The primary impediment to electricity infrastructure renewal in Canada is increasing legislative and regulatory complexity. There are two components.
First of all, there are the neverending and often duplicative regulatory processes for new projects.
Second of all, there are the inefficient and disparate regulatory requirements for the facilities in place.
In the documents that were distributed, there is also a chart, created by the Major Projects Management Office, which provides an interesting visual representation of the regulatory processes that can apply to new energy projects.
For new electricity projects, the excessively complex federal approval process often leads to pointless delays. That is due to the lack of coordination among federal departments and the frequent requirements to provide information that was already provided during similar provincial processes.
This process duplication results in no additional environmental protection. I'll note that since its creation in 2007, the major projects management office has made progress in reducing inefficiency and delays between the federal entities involved in project approvals. However, there is a limit to improvements that can be made within the existing framework. Real change requires a legislative and regulatory overhaul.
CEA members have developed extensive proposals to improve many of these processes while ensuring that environmental protection is paramount. CEA members seek regulatory predictability, consistency of application, and, in every instance, positive environmental outcomes.
I would like to discuss two other major challenges that concern increasing the capacity for electricity in the north to allow further development of resources, including funding, and the risks posed by projects, specifically those associated with mining projects.
A proposed mine that will require the construction of new electricity infrastructure to operate provides a good example of a key risk element associated with project life. Most mines have a life cycle of approximately 15 years. Electricity infrastructure on the other hand often operates for 40 years or more.
So who will be responsible for a stranded electricity asset when it's no longer needed for a mine? One possibility is the development of micro or mini grids linking multiple smaller generation facilities, hydro for example. When these grids are no longer required to provide electricity for a mine, they could tie into larger grids and supply renewable electricity to communities currently using carbon-intensive sources like diesel. This is just one example.
We are talking about the type of options that have to take into consideration communities, electrical utilities and governments when comes the time to determine the benefits of each of the resource projects. For the purposes of the study you have undertaken, an important issue to consider is the following: what role does the federal government play in order to encourage and facilitate resource development in the north?
Even if the members of the CEA are not asking for federal funding for the renewal of electrical infrastructures, but rather regulatory reform as I just described it, in the case of electrical production projects in the north, let us not forget that several of these projects are in remote regions and are simply not profitable.
The federal government had recently invested in these types of projects. Upgrades to the Mayo B hydro generation facility and further developments to the Carmacks-Stewart transmission line are two recent examples.
On closing, for any project aimed at increasing resource development in the north, we must first recognize the need to proceed with a major expansion of electrical infrastructures. We must begin by eliminating obstacles that currently exist across the whole country, with respect to renewing electrical infrastructure, before going forward with any new major project. Recent government proposals for regulatory reform are a step forward, but certain concerns remain.
Finally, increased resource development in the north requires experience and leadership to bring parties to the table, particularly affected communities and aboriginal peoples. Provincial governments, regulators, and licensing authorities, who have responsibility for electricity system planning and administration, must also be part of any long-term vision for resource development in Canada's north.
Merci. I look forward to your questions. Thank you.