Dustin Duncan, the minister responsible for SaskPower says the provincial government will be applying for federal dollars to connect more First Nations communities into the natural gas grid.

“We are applying for federal dollars to help tie people, more people, more communities — particularly a number of First Nations communities — into the gas system, the natural gas system, so that, you know, we can remove some of that reliance on diesel or electrical generation for heating and get them onto the SaskEnergy grid,” Duncan stated.

Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger is favourable of the initiative. “Yes, I can certainly concur that that is an admirable objective — to bring natural gas service to the First Nations and to the northern communities,” said Belanger.

Belanger says many northerners rely on electricity to heat and power their homes, but are shocked when they see their yearly adjusted power bills.

“I’m seeing now people are bringing their power bills into our offices and they’re saying, I just got a $1,400 power bill, and how am I going to pay for this? So over the period of a year SaskPower has gone through a payment plan, and then after that year all of a sudden, bang, the homeowner gets the true reading or the actual reading and they find out they owe 12 or $1,300 more at the end of that year,” Belanger explained.

Duncan in recognizing the high power bills in the north suggested mobile LNG delivery and transportation, as a less expensive alternative to pipelines.

“I know that there’s great interest at SaskEnergy in working with the oil and gas industry when it comes to, for instance, mobile LNG [liquefied natural gas] delivery and transportation so that we can hopefully find a, I would say, bit of a longer-term solution for some of those communities, but one that doesn’t require the significant infrastructure investment like pipelines,” said Duncan.

Belanger asked officials to grant more flexibility to northern residents in paying unexpectedly high power bills.

(PHOTO: Dustin Duncan.  Photo by Manfred Joehnck)