Wind power to draw heat at utility board hearings

The Yukon Conservation Society says that Yukon Energy is blowing off wind power. The society will be putting the utility in the hot seat when it has a chance to question it during the Yukon Utilities Board rate hearings next week.

The Yukon Conservation Society says that Yukon Energy is blowing off wind power.

The society will be putting the utility in the hot seat when it has a chance to question it during the Yukon Utilities Board rate hearings next week.

“The foundation of our cross examination to Yukon Energy is: Why are they are choosing to portray wind in a negative light?” said Anne Middler, energy coordinator for the Yukon Conservation Society.

David Morrison, the president of Yukon Energy, was too busy preparing for next week’s hearing to do an interview, but spokesperson Janet Patterson said that the utility doesn’t treat wind any differently from other potential energy options.

“While we are not saying wind isn’t viable, we are saying there are some realities with regard to wind that would be irresponsible for us to ignore,” she said. “Cost is one of those realities, as is flexibility and reliability.”

But the conservation society takes issue with the way that Yukon Energy calculates those costs.

In parts of the utility’s 20-year resource plan, the cost of wind is pegged at 40 cents per kilowatt-hour, while in other parts it’s put at 15 cents.

The 40-cent calculation is based on the assumption that a 20-megawatt project is built, but that demand for electricity will drop off in 2020 with the closure of two major mines, said Middler.

It’s a spurious assumption, she said.

“Some of the long-term options are not judged by the same criteria,” said Middler. “They’re not using the same crystal ball as to what it’s going to look like.”

With most new buildings choosing electric heat, and the possibility of switching from fossil fuels to electricity for transportation already becoming a reality, the conservation society sees the future a little differently.

“We’re already seeing a huge fuel shift,” said Middler. “We don’t share that view that there won’t be a use for the electricity after 2020 and beyond.”

Yukon Energy seems to be pushing liquefied natural gas as the solution to the Yukon’s looming energy shortage, she said. The conservation society says that’s inappropriate.

While natural gas is cleaner burning than diesel, it’s far from clean.

“It’s merely the substitution of one fossil fuel for another,” said Middler.

If liquefied natural gas needs to be burned to meet the electricity needs of the territory’s mines, the mines should be doing it on site, she said. That would eliminate line loss – the energy wasted by moving electricity through transmission lines – and excess heat could be used to heat buildings on site.

“Yukon Energy should be developing renewable energy, and wind is a really important piece in the energy mix,” said Middler.

The rate hearings are set to begin Monday at 9 a.m. at the High Country Inn.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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