Low cost solutions to the energy crunch

Low-cost solutions to the energy crunch As I write this letter, a three-day workshop entitled Yukon Achievable Energy Savings Potential, is being held. This is being driven by Yukon Energy and Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., which have been directed by th

As I write this letter, a three-day workshop entitled Yukon Achievable Energy Savings Potential, is being held.

This is being driven by Yukon Energy and Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., which have been directed by the Yukon Utilities Board to “consult with stakeholders and develop a policy paper with respect to Demand Side Management, that is, energy conservation initiatives.”

I attended a morning meeting to observe what this was all about, in an attempt to represent residential and small-business Yukon electrical consumers.

There were about 30 attendees, with at least three-quarters being representatives from the utilities, or some branch of the government, be it Yukon Energy Corp., Economic Development, Yukon Housing Corp., Energy Solutions Centre, and so forth. Then there are at least three consultants who are devising this computer-elicited potential, who I am certain don’t come cheap.

All these costs will be charged back to ratepayers in some manner.

I happen to be an old-fashioned, practical kind of guy who believes in action (getting things done), not sitting around talking about feeding irrelevant computer-programmed models.

I also heard in the news that Yukon Energy had to burn expensive diesel during the peak times of the day, early morning and dinner-time hours.

Utilities are mandated by their regulator to be prudent for any costs they want to recover from ratepayers. So, if one were to add up all the man hours invested from the various government agencies, the cost of three or more consultants to tell us how we can conserve electricity and save money, as well as the wages of two newly hired Yukon Energy personnel and their new demand-side management office costs, we could have already developed and implemented some off-peak programs to relieve the usage or potential usage of diesel during these high-demand periods of the day.

Yukoners do not need consultants from Outside to tell us that one of our major demands on electrical energy is the heating of water, our hot-water tanks.

I don’t even know if these Outsiders know we use electricity to heat our water, not natural gas, as they likely do wherever they come from.

Yukoners also know that at this time of year we need block or pan heaters for our vehicles.

There is a very simple device, which costs about $25 (one for the hot-water tank and one for the pan heater) that would go a long way for residential customers to do their part in preventing this peak burning of diesel É a simple timer, set not to go on during these peak times when it is logical, of course (many morning commuters would need the pan heater on until they start their car).

If we simply used all this money burnt up for hiring more bureaucrats and consultants, and conducting all these meetings we are holding to justify having energy programs for energy savings, we could have long developed this potential.

Instead of hiring two more bureaucrats, Yukon Energy could have trained and hired three or four part-time workers to go from house to house in each community to educate about and properly install these timers.

At the same time, hot-water blankets, fluorescent light bulbs, switch and plug-in wall fixture insulator kits, etc., could all be installed, and all these costs tracked and documented under residential ratepayers.

Of course, any type of commercial water-heating systems would undergo the same program, only separately tracked and documented for that segment.

The industrial mining companies have to play their part in making such a program of lowering peak-hour consumption work, by ramping down mill production during these peak periods of the day. Most of the mills operate on electric motors, which normally have two or three settings from high gear to low gear. Shifting down during peak hours may affect a bit of mill production, but if the mines want to be connected to our grid, then they must be part of the solution.

If we can get everyone on track here, such a simple concept would not only be very prudent but very practical.

All these relevant costs could be recovered from each ratepayer group at the next rate application.

As an intervener in cost hearings, we would support this as long as it is properly tracked, documented and invoiced to the proper ratepayer group.

What interested parties and the utilities consider to “consult” are obviously two very different worlds.

Roger Rondeau

Utilities Consumers’ Group