Stakeholders missing at utility board hearing

The Yukon Energy Corporation is making “backroom deals” on its 20-year resource plan, according to Yukon Utilities Consumer Group…

The Yukon Energy Corporation is making “backroom deals” on its 20-year resource plan, according to Yukon Utilities Consumer Group president Roger Rondeau.

Several stakeholder groups and individuals requested intervener status at a Yukon Utilities Board hearing being held at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse this week.

But few are showing up.

In fact, only the utilities consumer group and the Yukon Conservation Society have made presentations.

“What I’m really concerned about with this process is the conspicuous absence of all the interested groups that should be here,” said Rondeau on Tuesday during a break in the hearing.

The 20-year plan will affect all Yukoners for more than a generation, so the Association of Yukon Communities, independent power producers and secondary power users should be participating, but they’re absent, he said.

“This affects our kids and our grandkids.

“Where is the city of Whitehorse? Where are the Yukon communities? Where are the chambers (of commerce)?

“Where are the mines? They should be here, telling us what they want from us as Yukoners, how they’re going to share responsibilities, how they’re going to share risks.”

There’s only one explanation, said Rondeau.

“They’re making backroom deals.”

The most significant proposal in Yukon Energy’s 20-year plan is construction of a 178-kilometre hydroelectric transmission line between Carmacks and Stewart Crossing.

The line would connect the southern Yukon power grid to one that runs from Mayo to Dawson City.

If built, it would deliver hydroelectricity to Pelly Crossing, which currently burns diesel, and possibly to two prospective mines near Minto and Carmacks that are expected to burn diesel.

Yukon Energy has a signed letter of intent with Sherwood Copper Corporation, owner of the Minto mine, to purchase power if the Carmacks-Stewart line is built.

But a power-purchase agreement has not yet been reached, said Yukon Energy president David Morrison.

“Rondeau is making a false accusation; he doesn’t know anything about it,” said Morrison on Wednesday.

“We’re trying to reach agreement with the mining companies on what their rates and their contributions would be.

“You look at the economics, and the economics are that it’s a good deal for everybody.”

Power rates for industrial and non-industrial consumers would be subject to approval from the utilities board, he added.

“Any agreement we make with the mining company, we’ll table it.”

Morrison has estimated construction costs for the project could total $32 million.

Yukon Energy’s revised plan suggests that a $5 million contribution from its parent Crown entity, the Yukon Development Corporation, will shield the government from funding phase one of the line, from Carmacks to Pelly Crossing.

“(Yukon Energy) will have to put some money in, in terms of stage one to Pelly,” said Morrison.

“That can be financed with customers and the corporation.

“The question then is, how do we get from Pelly to Stewart Crossing?

“We’re not sure that we can get there without some government funding.”

The Carmacks-Stewart transmission line proposal remains a major focus of the utilities board hearing.

“When the (Minto) mine does come up, and assuming we’re connected to the mine, and we are running into winter peaks, who is going to be starting their diesel generators in the winter?” asked Yukon Conservation Society spokesman JP Pinard.

“Will it be us or will it be the mine?”

“If the mine is connected to the grid and we have a power outage similar to what we had last year and there is a necessity to look at starting up our backup systems, we would look at industrial customers the same way we look at secondary sales customers, and the industrial customers would be disconnected from the grid,” replied Morrison.

In a written intervention, Whitehorse expressed its disappointment with the lack of alternative or renewable fuels in Yukon Energy’s plan.

If a mine draws too much power from the southern electrical grid, the utility will have to fire its diesel generators, afflicting Whitehorse with air and noise pollution, said the city’s letter, written in July.

The city praised Yukon Energy for trying to cut its reliance on diesel.

But it questioned why two wind turbines on Haeckel Hill are not contributing power to the southern grid, and why the 20-year plan does not consider more wind turbines to displace diesel.

At press time, no city representative had addressed the utility board hearing.

The Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. also filed a detailed intervention that criticized Yukon Energy’s economic assessment.

The growth projections in the 20-year plan from non-industrial customers are wrong because they focus on the period from 2002 through 2004 that experienced an unsustainable mini-boom, the company said in its submission.

“It is well known that the arrival of several big box stores (in Whitehorse) and the Canada Games Centre are largely responsible for the energy growth on the (Whitehorse-Aishihik-Faro) grid during the years in question.”

Yukon Energy’s assumption that non-industrial growth on the southern grid will continue at 1.85 per cent ignores impacts from big-box stores, recreational infrastructure dollars from Ottawa drying up and the end of the Yukon government’s rate-stabilization fund, which is expected by the end of March, 2007, said the company.

But Yukon Electrical withdrew from the proceedings on September 25, saying it had its own plans for power generation and would wait for a subsequent hearing to address its concerns.

The utilities board is required to return a ruling on the current hearing by January 15, 2007.