12 steps to implement a Yukon climate change/energy strategy

Editor's note: Recently, we received this energy efficiency blueprint from Phil Thompson. Thompson's been dubbed a Canadian pioneer of energy management by CBC and has worked for the Prime Minister's Office, Natural Resources Canada and the government of NWT.

By Philip K. Thompson

Special to the News

Editor’s note: Recently, we received this energy efficiency blueprint from Phil Thompson.

Thompson’s been dubbed a Canadian pioneer of energy management by CBC and has worked for the Prime Minister’s Office, Natural Resources Canada and the government of NWT.

Now, Thompson’s compiled a laundry list of relatively simple ways the territory could save energy and money.

We offer it to you for consideration on Earth Day.

1: Legislate creation of a central utilities-management system. Energy use in public buildings cannot be managed unless measured and reported. The lack of a reliable utilities-management system is the biggest problem preventing energy efficiency of public buildings. This creates larger than necessary emissions of climate change gases from most heating systems.

The Yukon cannot benefit from most federal funding programs to improve energy efficiency of buildings unless this system is in place. The current Yukon government utility bill is more than $12 million annually. It could be as low as $8 million with effective energy management.

2: Legislate adoption of the National Energy Code for Buildings. In 1994, Ottawa created an energy code for Canadian buildings. It was not adopted. There are three climate regions for the Yukon that determine minimum insulation levels for the building envelope, including glazings, heating systems, ventilation requirements, etc.

Life cycle costing has already been done. Yet government staff are continually required to calculate payback for simple actions, like increasing window glazings when upgrading is required. This wastes precious time. The government of the Yukon should adopt this energy code immediately.

3: Legislate implementation of demand-side management. North American utilities have been required to level peak demand periods by helping customers purchase energy saving technologies. This is because peak-demand periods require the most expensive generation of electricity and utilities like to charge customers in advance for upgrading generation facilities.

In most States this is now against the law. An example of DSM: Many Whitehorse customers have electric hot-water heaters that come on for two hours in the morning after everyone’s had their shower before school or work. If the utility was required to purchase a greenfoam electric hot-water heater for every one of these customers, one diesel generator out of seven could probably be shut down. Just from better hot-water heaters. Conservation is a source of energy.

4: Legislate implementation of off-peak pricing for electricity. In many Canadian jurisdictions, customers have the opportunity to shift electricity use to low-demand periods in the evening and overnight. This is done by installation of new meters which selectively bill for time-of-use, and give a significant price reduction for off-peak sales. Often heat is provided with electric thermal storage units (ETS), large heat-storage units charged electrically overnight, which radiate heat back into the building in the day as required. This allows the utility to avoid expensive peak-power production, like diesel generation.

Considered superior to less reliable “interruptible sales” that require expensive investment in electric boilers, which depend on the program continuing for long periods of time, ETS units level peaks so dramatically that it is unlikely Whitehorse’s diesel generators would have to be operated, except in emergencies, lowering emissions.

5: Legislate implementation of net metering for renewable energy. Many people connected to the electrical grid are interested in buying renewable energy products, such as solar electric (PV) panels or small wind generators.

However, the main impediment to such a transition is the cost and maintenance of batteries, which have the shortest life of renewable-energy system components. If government had a net metering policy, the electrical grid could be used as a battery by customers, who get the benefit of “turning their meter backwards” when generating more power than they are consuming.

Without net metering, small-scale renewable energy is cost effective only for off-grid applications, already far cheaper than running generators.

6: Legislate cessation of full-time vehicle idling in populated areas. The air in our buildings comes from outside. In the Yukon, smokers can’t legally light up close to a ventilation intake or doorway, but can idle a diesel 350 V8 all day long to keep warm in the winter, or cool in the summer, and claim this is a right.

This creates an air-quality problem equivalent to 100 smokers and, combined with other idling vehicles, twice the emissions from all seven diesel generators at YEC.

We can’t eliminate the damage caused by essential transportation, but we can eliminate damage caused by unnecessary idling of vehicles in urban core areas. The fine should be at least as high as it is for smokers.

7: Legislate the requirement for oil combustion efficiency. Many oil-burning heating systems have been improved with high-efficiency oil burners in the past several years, but this is not enough.

Emissions from oil combustion are related to correct sizing of burners and nozzles to the actual heat demand of the building, whether residential or commercial/institutional in scale.

Rarely are heat loads calculated to determine correct sizing of heating equipment.

Very large heating plants are installed “in case it hits 60 below.” This creates short cycling of equipment and higher stack temperatures than required to keep the chimney warm or prevent corrosion. We are heating the outdoors in a time of global warming.

Emissions from oversized heating plants are higher in the shoulder seasons … the spring and fall … when they are running extremely short cycles.

In schools with this problem there is also an overheating problem because too many boilers are running at too high an output. This adds unwanted heat to the building, leading some educators to ask for air conditioning when none is required.

The general trend is for an oil burner mechanic, who drives a V8 truck, to put the largest size nozzle on a heating plant, and the technician, who drives a four-cylinder vehicle, to install the correct nozzle.

There should be no option. If an oil furnace or boiler in southern Yukon is running less than 90 per cent of the time at

minus 40 Celsius (design temperature) it is overfired and requires downsizing, according to the Canadian Combustion Research Laboratory.

8: Legislate the requirement of user-pay for all tenants. Many tenants of multi-unit buildings have electricity or heat, sometimes both, included in the rent.

While some people are frugal in these situations, the tendency is for tenants to open windows and turn up the thermostat if they don’t have to pay for it. Wherever separate meters exist, tenants should have to pay for electrical usage directly. Where heating use can be fairly apportioned on a square-metre basis, tenants should have rent reduced and pay their share of heating bills added as a proportional cost. When user-pay programs were introduced in the NWT in the early ‘90s, energy use by tenants dropped nearly 30 per cent. This reduces both climate change emissions and related electric generation costs.

9: Legislate a low-income energy efficiency program. Any consumer of electricity with a power bill of less than 1,000 kilowatt hours should pay the least for power. This places minimal demand on the system and provides a reward for frugality.

Senior citizens and people on social services support should be eligible for free energy-efficiency expertise and help with the acquisition of energy efficiency products. This changes the public image of the utility and helps the corporation be a good citizen.

10: Legislate hydro or wind integration for diesel communities. For many years, Alaska and other circumpolar regions have been installing integrated wind/diesel plants using Canadian expertise. Yet Burwash, Destruction Bay and other Yukon communities have had no transition to these well-proven technologies. Any existing diesel generated communities should be immediately studied for wind integration or small hydro integration where appropriate. The time for demonstration is over. It is time for implementation.

11: Legislate rules for government vehicle fleet. When government staff travel in government vehicles, the choice of the vehicle should be limited based on the energy requirements of the trip.

One or two people travelling without heavy equipment should get four-cylinder, energy efficient vehicles.

Four people requiring some equipment might get a six-cylinder, medium-sized vehicle.

Heavy equipment required by tradespeople may, in some cases, necessitate a larger V8 vehicle.

In no circumstances should staff travelling alone without equipment be permitted to travel in V8 vehicles at public expense.

12: Legislate Yukon-only requirement for biomass fuels. Under no circumstances should wood chips, pellets, or other biomass fuels be shipped by truck from other jurisdictions to fuel government buildings, businesses or private residences.

The fundamental principle of biomass efficiency is the local production and distribution of material and related employment opportunities.

Maximum sustainable forest yields must also be honoured.

Densely populated areas with temperature inversions must be avoided. Only EPA approved woodstoves should be permitted in urban areas.

Woodsmoke is as deadly as diesel exhaust and tobacco.