Energy Solutions Centre running again

The Energy Solutions Centre is up to full strength. And it’s a shadow of its former self. The government agency was brought within the fold…

The Energy Solutions Centre is up to full strength.

And it’s a shadow of its former self.

The government agency was brought within the fold of Energy, Mines and Resources early this year after a scathing 2004 audit from federal auditor general Sheila Fraser revealed gross mismanagement.

“In that audit we found that managers’ decisions showed a disregard for good governance practices and principles,” Fraser said in Whitehorse in February 2006.

“Specifically, we found that the centre awarded large contracts to two of its senior managers, made payments without proper supporting documents and moved forward with major projects without the approval of the board.”

Tens of thousands of dollars went missing from the centre, and $150,000 in contract receipts could not be accounted for.

Energy, Mines and Resources took over, and cleaned house.

The centre no longer operates as an arms-length government agency.

“Coming in to government will give us a little more credibility,” centre director Colin McDowell said Tuesday.

“In the past, we were sort of seen as a separate corporation and, in some ways and at some times, as a bit of a lame duck in terms of convincing people to be efficient.”

The centre hired its fourth full-time staffer this week, completing its regiment.

It employs one part-time expert.

In the past, the centre has contracted up to 20 consultants at once, said McDowell.

“Contract work is no longer a priority model,” he said.

“There are two engineering firms hired for the project in Mayo.”

The centre has several ongoing projects.

It’s trying to heat five buildings in Mayo with geothermal heat from two warm water wells.

Ditto for Haines Junction, where a single well tapping water that’s 17 degrees Celsius, 245 metres underground, could heat the local convention centre.

These projects will continue, said McDowell.

“Most of the money for both of these projects is from outside-Yukon sources,” he said.

“In addition to the $1.2 million that we operate on, we also try to broker other arrangements with national bodies, such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and in the case of Mayo and Haines Junction in the past we’ve used the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition.”

And there’s a similar geothermal proposal for Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse.

The centre will also continue with an ice-plant heating initiative in Teslin and building an energy efficiency database for all Yukon government buildings.

“We can provide a lot of value back to the government, in terms of giving them information about which buildings are comparative energy pigs, and which ones are energy efficient,” said McDowell.

The government will continue its $1.2-million annual investment in the centre, to be offset by environmental initiative funds, said Resources minister Archie Lang.

“The centre will continue its positive work in delivering valuable energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and services, but under tighter controls than have been in the past,” said Lang.

“It’s going to be an improvement for the government, that we have an agency that does exclusively this kind of work, and works internally to make sure that we’re not duplicating expenditures or complicating things with different decision-making bodies.”