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Dim outlook for Yellowknife’s smart streetlight project?

A streetlight in downtown Yellowknife provides a platform for a decorative raven
A streetlight in downtown Yellowknife provides a platform for a decorative banner and raven. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

There appears little chance of Yellowknife’s smart streetlights being installed in the immediate future after the city lost a federal funding contest.

Bridgewater, Nova Scotia was picked ahead of Yellowknife in the Smart Cities Challenge last week, depriving the NWT capital of $5 million in federal cash for the project.

Without that money, officials say there’s currently no room in the budget for the streetlights to be rolled out.

The lights were designed to dim automatically when not needed, reducing light pollution – a boon to the city’s aurora tourism industry – while saving on energy costs.



Future iterations of the lights could have introduced a city-wide Wi-Fi network alongside smart monitoring of issues like water leaks or snow and ice build-up, electric vehicle charging, and more.

“We definitely were looking forward to pursuing this project, but we also have a lot of other projects on the books,” said the Mayor of Yellowknife, Rebecca Alty.

For example, Yellowknife has now approved spending a $26-million federal grant plus almost $10 million in other funding (still to be raised) on replacing the pipe bringing drinking water from the Yellowknife River.

That project, plus a potential $50 million-plus swimming pool complex, will dominate the City’s books for the next few years.



“We do have a lot of other projects on the go. If we’d won this, it would have been great, but it also would have come with a lot of work,” said Alty.

“I think we’ll be able to watch Bridgewater and learn from them.”

Rejecting the suggestion that judges may have preferred other contenders’ projects – like Bridgewater’s plan to lift residents out of energy poverty – because they focused on improving quality of life, whereas Yellowknife’s bid had emphasized tourism and cost savings, Alty said it was “tough to say what really set Bridgewater apart from everybody else.”

“We’ll take a look at the project and see what should go forward, if any of it, and how it could go forward,” said Alty.

“Perhaps, as we have to replace old streetlights, the new streetlights are an option. So could we phase it in as we’re replacing stuff. Or does it get put on the shelf until we find more funding? Those will be some of the questions we will have to work through in the coming weeks.”

Chris Greencorn, the City’s director of public works, said in statement his staff would “debrief and review the process and the ideas” before making a recommendation as to next steps.

“At this time there is no allocated budget available to advance the suggestions encapsulated in our finalist submission,” said Greencorn by email.

“If there are opportunities to incorporate some of these ideas in future City projects, we will certainly explore those options at that time.”