On Dec. 11 with about 100 other people, I attended the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board’s public meeting on the Yukon Energy proposal to replace diesel generators in Whitehorse with ones fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG).
This is not a big issue, we were assured, because the generators only run in case of emergency or when water for hydro generation is low. YESAB chair Stephen Mills emphasized that the project purpose was to provide reserve capacity and permit Yukon Energy to meet short-term non-industrial load growth and peak demand. If the proposal were about powering Yukon Energy’s base load, he said, we would have been having a completely different discussion.
At the end of December, I checked the energy consumption chart on Yukon Energy’s website. In the previous 12 months, the utility had produced 3.1 gigawatt-hours of energy using diesel generators, a very small fraction of the total.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I dug into the details of the proposal Yukon Energy submitted to YESAB on Nov 15. In calculating the savings using LNG, Yukon Energy is assuming that during a nine-month period in 2014-15, it will be required to generate 30.7 gigawatt-hours of energy by generator. This is a ten-fold increase from 2013.
Furthermore, while the two new LNG generators (8.8 megawatts together) will replace about one-quarter of Yukon Energy’s diesel capacity, the utility plans to use them for 95 per cent of the generator-produced energy. A quick calculation for the specific nine-month period in Yukon Energy’s proposal reveals that both new generators would be required to run 12 hours per day on average during that time, or one would run continuously. This is a very significant change from 2013 where the generators were silent for entire months.
Somehow, that doesn’t sound much like peaking or emergency use to me, so it must be for “short-term non-industrial load growth” as per the Yukon Energy proposal. But what does “short term” actually mean here then, if not for base load? Indeed, Section 5 of the Yukon Energy proposal describes how these generators will be regularly required to produce an increasing portion of our energy in the future. That’s why Yukon Energy’s plan includes adding a third LNG generator to the two under discussion.
That the proposed LNG generators would be running frequently and regularly throughout the year was certainly not apparent during the YESAB public meeting and is, I’m sure, news to many Yukoners.
Timothy Green, PEng