Report shows renewables could replace new hydro

Small-scale renewable power could supply the Yukon's energy demand at roughly the same cost as a next generation hydro project, according to a new report prepared for the Yukon Development Corporation.

Small-scale renewable power could supply the Yukon’s energy demand at roughly the same cost as a next generation hydro project, according to a new report prepared for the Yukon Development Corporation.

The study was part of a suite of technical reports for the Yukon’s planned next generation hydro project released at a two-day workshop this week.

The reports also describe the final six sites being considered as possible locations for a large hydroelectric dam, and their price tags.

The Yukon Development Corporation also released the results of its transmission assessment, which found that it will not be economical to connect the Yukon’s electricity grid to British Columbia or to Fairbanks, Alaska.

But it’s the first report that’s perhaps the most surprising, since the construction of a large-scale hydro project has seemed like a foregone conclusion.

The study compared four energy scenarios that would fill the Yukon’s predicted electricity gap with different types of power: natural gas, next generation hydro, renewables or renewables with pumped storage. Renewable projects include wind, solar and small hydro.

All but the first renewables scenario would cost roughly the same amount – between $240 and $270 per megawatt-hour, the report found.

Using renewable energy without pumped storage would cost more, as it’s expensive to produce in the winter. Pumped storage would allow excess summertime electricity to be stored for use in the winter.

Both renewable scenarios would also require the use of a small amount of diesel or LNG power to meet peak demand in the winter.

But otherwise, there were no major differences between a next generation hydro project and small-scale renewables with pumped storage, except that the renewable scenario would involve a larger number of small projects.

“There’s no silver bullet,” said Peter Helland, CEO of Midgard Consulting, the company hired to do the analysis. He added that there’s no single approach “that is clearly superior over the other.”

But it’s not clear whether these results will have any real impact.

Darielle Talarico, a public engagement consultant with Tipping Point Strategies, said the report was completed to put the next generation project in context.

“A lot of people have a lot of ideas about how we can meet that future need. And what we wanted to do was have a fact-based document… to refer to,” she said.

“This government would still like to pursue the next generation hydro option.”

Still, Anne Middler, energy analyst for the Yukon Conservation Society, said the general consensus at Thursday’s workshop was that participants would prefer to see the renewable option go ahead. She said the workshop was attended by First Nations representatives and non-governmental organizations, among others.

“It seems like there’s a great deal of momentum and desire to do that, to look at an alternative scenario.”

But Lisa Badenhorst, project director for the Yukon Development Corporation, said the corporation’s board still has to fulfill the directive it’s received from the government, which is to recommend “one or more hydroelectric projects” to the territorial cabinet.

Those projects will likely be chosen from among the six sites identified at the workshop this week. The sites have been selected from an original list of over 200 possible projects.

Badenhorst said the information about the six sites will go to the Yukon Development Corporation board for review in early 2016.

Three of those sites are on the Pelly River: one at Slate Rapids and Hoole Canyon near Ross River, another at Detour Canyon and a third at Granite Canyon near Pelly Crossing.

A fourth site is at Fraser Falls on the Stewart River and a fifth is at Two Mile Canyon on the Hess River. Both sites are east of Mayo.

The sixth site is at False Canyon and Middle Canyon on the Frances River, near Watson Lake.

The capital costs for the projects range from $847 million for the Granite Canyon site to $3 billion for the Slate Rapids and Hoole Canyon site.

The sites were chosen based on environmental and economic considerations, and on their ability to be scaled up over time, as energy demand grows.

Midgard estimates that the Yukon will need an additional 53 megawatts of electrical capacity by 2065. All six proposed projects would be in operation by 2035.

All of the sites have potential environmental and socio-economic effects.

Don Reid, a conservation zoologist with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, said the site on the Frances River might be the most appealing from a fish conservation standpoint, since it isn’t home to migrating salmon.

“But there will still be freshwater populations on that river that we don’t understand,” he added.

Reid has just published a new paper detailing the possible effects of large hydroelectric dams on fish and fish habitat in the Yukon. Overall, he said, it isn’t possible to build large hydroelectric dams without “major impacts” on ecosystems upstream and downstream.

He said freshwater fish populations need to be monitored and more information needs to be gathered from First Nations and local communities before any large project is planned.

Regardless of which site is chosen, however, it seems that exporting surplus energy to B.C. or Fairbanks is not in the cards.

The Yukon Development Corporation has released a report showing that a transmission line built to B.C. or Fairbanks would result in a net loss to the Yukon of $1.4 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively.

“Both scenarios demonstrate significantly negative net economic benefits and are therefore uneconomic strategies,” said Helland.

Middler said she was “excited” by that finding, because it might encourage the Yukon to look more closely at a diversified local grid.

Contact Maura Forrest at

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

Just Posted

Connie Peggy Thorn, 52, pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to manslaughter in the 2017 death of Greg Dawson. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse woman pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Greg Dawson

Connie Thorn, 52, was arrested in October 2019 and pleaded guilty in Supreme Court on Jan. 27.

Abigail Jirousek, left, is tailed by Brian Horton while climbing a hill during the Cross Country Yukon January Classic in Whitehorse on Jan. 23. Jirousek finished second in the U16 girls category. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Cross Country Yukon hosts classic race

Cross Country Yukon hosted a classic technique cross-country ski race on Jan.… Continue reading

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver talks to media on March 5, 2020. The Yukon government said Jan. 25 that it is disappointed in a decision by the federal government to send the Kudz Ze Kayah mining project back to the drawing board. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Territorial and federal governments at odds over Kudz Ze Kayah mine project

The federal government, backed by Liard First Nation, sent the proposal back to the screening stage


Wyatt’s World for Jan. 27, 2021

Yukon RCMP said in a press release that they are seeing an increase in tinted front passenger windows and are reminding people that it is illegal and potentially dangerous. (RCMP handout)
RCMP warn against upward trend of tinted windows

Yukon RCMP are seeing more vehicles with tinted front passenger windows, prompting… Continue reading

An arrest warrant has been issued for a 22-year-old man facing two tickets violating the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em>. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Arrest warrant issued for CEMA violation

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ansh Dhawan over two tickets for violating CEMA

The office space at 151 Industrial Road in Marwell. At Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 25 meeting, members voted to sign off on the conditional use approval so Unit 6 at 151 Industrial Rd. can be used for office space. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Marwell move set for land and building services staff

Conditional use, lease approved for office space

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

Most Read