Government pushes wood heat plan

The Yukon Wood Products Association is pleased that the territorial government has a plan to encourage more wood burning for heat in the territory.

The Yukon Wood Products Association is pleased that the territorial government has a plan to encourage more wood burning for heat in the territory.

“It’s the most positive thing we’ve seen out of them,” said executive director Myles Thorp in an interview this week.

The Yukon government is currently consulting on its draft biomass energy strategy.

Biomass energy is a fancy term for burning organic material for heat or power. In the Yukon, it basically means wood heat.

Extensive wood burning has a reputation for causing air quality issues, but modern furnaces and stoves have made the practice much cleaner.

Burning wood does release carbon into the atmosphere, but because forests capture carbon as they grow, using wood for fuel is considered carbon neutral over the long run if forests are sustainably harvested.

The wood products association usually has a membership of between 15 and 20 companies, most of whom are firewood cutters, said Thorp.

Overall in the territory, there are about 60 companies in the forest industry, including woodcutters, a couple wood distributors and a few small sawmills, he said.

The industry’s focus is on providing wood locally as a fuel for heating, said Thorp.

“We’re not looking for the big home run. We’re looking for the things that we can do here.”

The best opportunity for expansion is into production of wood chips for modern, efficient furnaces, he said.

That industry could be competitive with compressed wood pellets shipped from northern B.C. and Alberta, if there were enough of a market, said Thorp.

Currently in the Yukon there are two pieces of public infrastructure that use biomass heat.

The Whitehorse Correctional Centre ships wood pellets from Outside for its furnace.

And the Dawson City wastewater treatment facility uses wood chips that come from the waste products of a local sawmill to heat the building.

The territory has also had failed experiments in large-scale biomass fuel in the past.

A furnace designed to eat wood, garbage and just about anything else at Yukon College was installed in 1988 but never really worked right, and was decommissioned.

A furnace at Elijah Smith Elementary School that could burn both oil and wood suffered the same fate.

Shane Andre, director of Yukon’s energy branch, said the technology has improved vastly since then.

“There are a lot of legacy-type biomass projects that were tried in the past. There’s so many benefits to biomass technology, that throughout history we’ve dabbled in this space. But I think right now we’re coming into an era where the technology is really good.”

The government expects to try more pilot projects with new infrastructure, although it has not committed to any building in particular at this point, he said.

The draft strategy proposes that the government also continue to provide rebates for Yukoners who buy efficient wood furnaces for their homes that burn logs, chips or pellets.

It also proposes to facilitate the development of the local wood product industry, and ensure that forests are harvested sustainably.

“I think our forest management branch has done really an excellent job of working with communities and First Nations to develop forest management plans,” said Andre.

“We have such a huge forest resource that we really take advantage of a very small component of right now. It’s like 0.002 per cent of our forest resource that we currently harvest for biomass production.”

That’s just a tenth of what burns naturally through forest fires each year, he said.

The Yukon government will accept feedback on the draft strategy through June 26. Visit the Energy, Mines and Resources website for more information.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read