Currie Dixon, the minister of environment and of economic development, correctly identifies the primary source of Yukon’s energy as hydroelectricity, which is both green and renewable, and does not contribute to the production of greenhouse gasses. The minister goes on to tout the need to replace the current back-up diesel generators with similar generators powered by liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
Dixon suggests that the greenhouse gases produced by the use of LNG would be less than those generated by the use of diesel. This is not correct. The gas that the minister speaks of is, in fact, methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The source of this methane would be from hydraulic fracturing, which is an energy intensive process. The leakage from these fracked wells contributes huge quantities of methane to the atmosphere.
Furthermore, the transportation of LNG would contribute more greenhouse gases than transporting the equivalent amount of diesel. LNG containers are bigger and heavier, and LNG is a less efficient fuel. In order to liquefy methane, a huge amount of energy is required in the cooling and compression process.
More greenhouse gas would be created by trucking the LNG, after it has been processed in the only processing plant in Canada, near Strathmore, southern Alberta. Coal is used in the process of generating electricity to compress methane into LNG for use in the trucking, rail, and fracking industries. So, on balance, the use of LNG that the minister is proposing for the Yukon would be less green than the current use of diesel in generators used to produce a back-up source of energy.
The minister also seems to have inferred that someday the Yukon will produce its own LNG. This process is such a huge consumer of energy, that LNG facilities are planned only at the end of gas pipelines where there is abundant hydro power and export potential, such as in Kitimat, BC. It will never be feasible for the Yukon to produce its own LNG.
What the minister should be considering is investing in wind and solar energy as the backup to hydro power. Yukon Energy states that the wind is strongest in the winter when our electricity demand is highest. The disadvantage of wind generation is that it is not constant, and therefore we need some means of storing the energy for times when it is needed.
We already have the ideal energy storage in the hydro dams in which we have already invested. We could use surplus energy to pump water back up the dams, and when the wind stops, we could run stored water through the generators. We could also use the energy from solar collectors instead of generating electricity, and store the water in dams. When it is dark, we could use the stored water to generate electricity.
Instead of making the investment in LNG generators, we should use that capital to invest in wind turbines and solar collectors that will complement our current hydro system and provide the Yukon with genuinely clean, green renewable energy.