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NWT plans to borrow millions for massive power expansion – The Globe and Mail

Dec. 16 2013

The Northwest Territories is planning a sweeping expansion of its electrical grid, with hopes of unlocking new mining projects and lowering power bills in remote communities.

As part of an energy plan set for release Monday, the NWT aims to deliver cheaper power to several communities and mines currently running on diesel generators. Many Northerners currently pay power rates far higher than southern Canadians – the plan aims to lower those bills, while leveraging cheaper power to lure industry to consider new mines.

But the move is a gamble. The 20-year electrical expansion plan could see the NWT more than double its debt-load, currently about $587-million. Early, rough projections show the electrical plan could cost $700-million. It will test Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s oft-stated commitment to Northern development, as Ottawa would need to approve raising the territory’s $800-million borrowing limit.

The expansion “vision” is being released Monday along with a short-term Energy Action Plan, which includes $31-million in spending on pilot projects to boost energy efficiency.

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