Critics fear waste will follow YEC haste

Another electric week in the Yukon has witnessed a litany of developments on the proposed electricity deal between Sherwood Copper and the Yukon…

Another electric week in the Yukon has witnessed a litany of developments on the proposed electricity deal between Sherwood Copper and the Yukon Energy Corporation.

Same thing goes for the proposed grid extension from Carmacks to Pelly Crossing.

Here, then, is a lightning-fast summary:

YEC hits back

at its critics

The Yukon Energy Corp.’s push for a power-purchase agreement with Sherwood Copper and a grid extension from Carmacks to Pelly Crossing are not getting a fair shake, said spokesperson Janet Patterson.

The corporation’s quick pace on the file is not to help Minto make money, but to allow YEC to sell excess power to a customer hungry for electricity, she said.

Every month the project is delayed sees a potential profit of about $250,000 wash over the YEC dams unsold, said Patterson.

“We have water that’s just going to waste because we don’t have the customers for it,” said Patterson. “So if we have customers who are willing to buy our electricity, that means a better financial picture for us and that will trickle down as benefits for ratepayers.”

The Energy Corp. has been criticized for awarding a $450,000 pre-design contract on the grid extension before it has passed public reviews.

But none of those review bodies have expressed concerns about the contract, said Patterson.

In fact, “This information should be valuable in these other processes,” she said.

Critics who focus on the grid extension only helping the mine’s interests dismiss the environmental benefits of taking Pelly Crossing off of diesel electricity, said Patterson.

The community of 300 produces 1,400 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year while it consumes 1.5-gigawatt hours of electricity generated burning diesel, she said.

There are about 15-gigawatt hours of excess power on the Mayo-Dawson electrical grid (which, at Stewart Crossing, is located about 34 kilometres closer to Pelly than the Carmacks grid terminus), said Patterson.

The Minto mine has agreed to buy 32.5-gigawatt hours per year. Thus, the line must extend from Carmacks, she said.

“Dawson and Mayo don’t have enough excess to supply the Minto mine. That’s why it’s got to come from south to north, as opposed to north to south.”

Final arguments

 submitted

The Yukon Utilities Board has received final arguments on the proposed power purchase agreement between YEC and Sherwood Copper, owners of the Minto mine.

Energy watchdog Peter Percival, the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. and the Utilities’ Consumers Group have all argued the board should reject the deal.

“Basically, we do not have sufficient evidence provided by Yukon Energy to agree with this power-purchase agreement,” said Utilities’ Consumer Group president Roger Rondeau.

“We’ve asked for it to be denied.”

The Electrical Co. has expressed similar worries.

If they aren’t addressed, the board should conclude that the proposal is “unacceptable,” reads YECL’s final argument.

The utilities board hopes to have the review completed by the end of April, said spokesperson Deana Lemke.

Diesels already

needing fixing

On Friday at the Braeburn restaurant famous for cinnamon buns sat two rigs, their drivers taking a break from hauling two giant diesel generators back to the Minto mine.

The generators had “set-up problems” recently and failed, said Minto corporate affairs manager Bill Dunn.

“We had a couple of problems with them, they’ve since been repaired and they’re back on site,” said Dunn.

There are three 1.6-megawatt diesel generators at Minto at the moment; a fourth is on standby with its supplier and operator Finning, said Dunn.

Despite the recent breakdowns there are no worries about the reliability of the machines, he said.

“They’re used. They were standby emergency generators. They’re low-hour machines, a couple of thousand hours, so they’re relatively new,” said Dunn.

But many have questioned the logic of a section of the proposed power-purchase deal between YEC and Sherwood that will see the Energy Corp. buy the generators once it delivers power to the mine.

The purchase price: $2.24 million.

The recent breakdown amplifies fear that ratepayers are buying unneeded, unreliable generators.

“Quite frankly I don’t think it makes any sense at all,” said Percival on Tuesday.

“YEC is saying it’s going to give them some kind of security over their getting payments for construction of a mine spur line, because they’re going to buy them at the same time that the mine is supposed to pay off that line.

“I don’t see them as assets,” he said. “They’ll be virtually junk by the time YEC gets a hold of them.”

The generators are secondhand to Minto and were already used to power operations in the Alberta oil patch, said Percival.

“Is there any skullduggery in it or are they just making a mistake? I certainly think it’s a mistake.”

Liberal energy critic Gary McRobb is less diplomatic.

“It sounds like there’s politics mixed in with the whole deal,” said McRobb on Tuesday.

“If the Yukon government wanted to protect ratepayers from risk, it should have considered paying for those diesels if, at the end of the day, they were found necessary to be bought — which I hope isn’t the case.

“They’re not even the type of diesels we even want to purchase,” charged McRobb. “We’ve got our own diesel generators, and quite a few of them at that.”

The power purchase agreement now before the utilities board stipulates the diesels must be in good condition.

If they aren’t, YEC doesn’t have to buy them, said Patterson.

Government urged to use $5 million for climate change, not hydro

Rondeau and the utilities group are also criticizing Fentie’s decision to sink $5 million of federal climate change money into hydroelectric infrastructure.

The Yukon Utilities Board has told the Yukon government there is no foreseeable need to increase electricity production until 2013, said Rondeau.

“If that’s indeed the case, there are better ways to use the money to get immediate returns for the environmental problems that we’re having,” he said.

A similar proposal to add a third turbine at Aishihik Lake was explored at in the early 1990s, said NDP leader Todd Hardy.

Back then, it was decided wind power was the more progressive option, he said.

The problem the board saw then was that a third turbine would lower lake levels and impact traditional lifestyles of Champagne/Aishihik First Nations citizens, he said.

Hardy fears that remains true today.

“I’m very concerned that YEC and YDC are not being responsible to the people and the fact that the premier seems to have control of it,” he said.

“These are not decisions being made from a board level. These are very purely political decisions made by Mr. Fentie.

“And once again it’s mega projects that haven’t had the scrutiny or public discussion that’s necessary for the future of this territory,” he said.

With a surplus of electricity in the Yukon, wind turbines would have an equally negligible impact on greenhouse gas emissions as a third turbine, said Rondeau.

Consultations on the turbine were held during a water licence review in 2002, said Patterson.

Water levels in Lake Aishihik will not be affected, she added.

Fentie is out of the territory and couldn’t be reached for comment.

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