Power to the people

The fellow at the front room was worked up discussing some facet of medium-size hydro projects. "I miss this," said Piers McDonald, flashing an impish grin. The oblique remark referenced the pandemonium of public meetings - citizens discussing stuff.

The fellow at the front room was worked up discussing some facet of medium-size hydro projects.

“I miss this,” said Piers McDonald, flashing an impish grin.

The oblique remark referenced the pandemonium of public meetings – citizens discussing stuff.

It’s sometimes messy. But it’s important.

McDonald knows this.

The former premier, land developer and chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation has a long history in the public eye, but of late has moved into the territory’s boardrooms (Northwestel and Golden Predator among them) and out of the limelight.

But this week at Mt. McIntyre he was skirting its edges again as the Crown-owned utility started hunting for new sources of power through a “charette,” a pompous label for brainstorming session.

The territory’s power situation is grim.

For years, the utility has had surplus power and it coasted. But now industrial activity is on the rise and that,coupled with an explosion in personal electronics (TVs, computers, cellphones, among other gizmos), has left Yukon Energy short of juice.

And it’s only going to get worse.

The utility can burn diesel to meet its needs. But if you look at the situation in the Middle East right now, and visit your neighbourhood gas station, you’ll find fuel prices skyrocketing.

Using oil to generate electricity starts at roughly 35 cents a kilowatt hour. And that’s when a barrel runs between $60 and $80. Above that, each kilowatt gets steeper still. It’s damn expensive.

Hydro costs the territory about 13 cents a kilowatt hour. But there’s no longer enough hydro to feed the beast. And it’s going to get worse.

What’s a utility to do?

For years, it has been bunkered down talking to windmill guys, nuclear guys, transmission guys, biomass guys, demand-side managers, hydro guys. And generating studies.

But this approach hasn’t allowed these factions to interact much - there hasn’t been much cross-pollination.

Until now.

The brainstorming session is a first step, said McDonald.

A baby step, really. An attempt to get the energy wonks together in the same room, shed their built-up frustrations, get them acquainted and talking. And to hook the power-interested public into the process as well.

To an observer, it is sometimes stupidly banal.

We have to put forward a portfolio of energy solutions that accomplishes something, said Simon Fraser professor Mark Jaccard, former chair of the BC Utilities Commission.

Thank you for that.

And the territory should focus on achieving affordable, reliable, environmentally responsible power sources that are flexible, he added.

Can we have a show of hands of people who want the opposite?

But wrapped in the warm fuzzies, the energy community is talking.

And, it’s hoped that, within this incubator, a transmission guy talking to a conservationist and the nuclear, windmill and biomass guys might, eventually, spark some ingenious ideas to solve, or diminish the territory’s energy crisis.

The goal, after all, is simple: save us some cash while keeping the lights on.

For the utility, it’s a new, citizen-friendly approach at innovation and concensus.

For McDonald, who drafted the Yukon’s cutting edge education legislation, brought the internet to rural Yukon and who, several years ago, suggested boosting downtown Whitehorse’s population density to stave off expensive expansion and spark economic opportunity, it’s old school.

It could get messy. But it could also get electric.

And that’s precisely what the utility needs right now.

(Richard Mostyn)

Just Posted

Whitehorse musicians offer film scores online

‘People know when they come to the site that there is a certain aesthetic and level of quality’

Yukon government won’t release municipal carbon tax rebate details until May

Details of potential rebates for municipalities to be announced in May

They’ve got a guy: Yukon government signs first pot supplier deal

A B.C.-based company will provide up to 350 kg of cannabis flower and oil

Yukon Parks tightens rules to crack down on campsite squatters

Campers were previously allowed to leave occupied campsites unattended for up to 72 hours

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

Gold Rush star Tony Beets appeals pond fire fines

Beets and his company, Tamarack Inc., were fined $31k for violating portions of the Waters Act

Defence lawyer asks Crown appeal of Kolasch acquittal be dismissed

In factum, Harry Kolasch’s lawyer says it’s clear that police officer used excessive force

Yukon Liberals raise $20,000 at Vancouver hockey game

Silver says no public money spent on trip, party refuses to say who bought tickets

Inspector, CYFN lawyer talk about WCC inspection at justice conference

David Loukidelis and Jennie Cunningham spoke about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre

An early view on how the carbon tax will affect the Yukon economy

If you only remember two numbers from the recently released federal-territorial study… Continue reading

‘New way of thinking’ about infrastructure funding asks First Nations and municipalities to chip in

Some of YG’s 25 per cent share of infrastructure cash may come from municipalities or First Nations

Nadia Moser named to senior national team

Whitehorse’s Nadia Moser was officially named to the senior national team by… Continue reading

Most Read