Ranj Pillai, minister of energy, mines and resources, in 2017. Pillai was asked during question period on March 20 whether the Liberals would intervene in order to see demand-side management programs continue under Yukon Energy Corp. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

YEC challenges regulator over energy saving initiatives

‘We think we’re pretty well-equipped to deliver those programs effectively’

Yukon Energy Corp. (YEC) is disputing a decision by the Yukon Utilities Board (YUB) denying its ability to expand programs geared towards more efficient electricity use.

The issue came to light during question period on March 20, with NDP Leader Liz Hanson asking whether the Liberals would intervene in order to see demand-side management (DSM) programs continue under YEC.

YEC currently provides free electricity savings kit, rebates for those who own Energy Star LED lights and block heater timers, said Stephanie Whitehead, resource and planning engineer at Yukon Energy, whose portfolio includes DSM.

“It’s been very successful,” she said.

In a report late last year, the utilities board argued that the government should take control of DSM programming “rather than having ratepayers fund these projects.”

“For these reasons, the board is of the view that continuation of DSM programs by YEC is not necessary. Accordingly, the board denies YEC’s requests to continue with any DSM programs other than end-of-life streetlight conversions as discussed above,” it says.

The News reached out to the board, but didn’t receive a response prior to publication.

YEC is fighting the decision in documents filed on March 15.

The regulator had “denied some of our historical costs and we’re saying that’s not fair,” said YEC’s chief financial officer Ed Mollard. “We delivered the programs and we got the results, so we should be compensated. The other aspect is we’ve proven that we’ve got this capacity challenge, we’ve got these programs that we think will address those capacity problems, so the board should allow us to proceed with new programs.”

Asked how YEC can continue to offer DSM programs despite the regulator’s decision, Mollard said, “The board order has the effect of denying us the right to collect the costs in this application. They can’t tell us not to deliver a program, only whether we can collect the costs through customer rates. We are advancing certain planning activities to keep the momentum in the programs with the hope that we will convince the YUB of the value of this initiative.”

DSM programs, he said, will help prevent capacity shortfalls that put electricity supply at risk during Yukon winters.

“Our future DSM programs we are looking at are largely targeted specifically to that problem. The Yukon government is not doing that. They’re not gonna fix our problem for us. That’s one of our pushbacks: you should let us do this because we need to deal with this specific problem,” Mollard said.

Challenging such a decision goes through a quasi-judicial process facilitated by the board. If YEC disagrees with the verdict concerning its submission, the energy corporation can take the matter to an appellant court.

Mollard said the YEC is not at the appeal stage yet, noting that it will likely take about one month for the regulator to respond.

“We think we’re pretty well-equipped to deliver those programs effectively” instead of the Yukon government, Mollard said.

When Hanson asked whether the Liberals would reverse the board’s decision to discontinue DSM programs under YEC, Ranj Pillai, minister of energy, mines and resources said, “Will I take steps to put in an order-in-council? I have to talk to my colleagues. I need the right information to bring back to them. I have asked the Yukon Development Corporation in their work to gather that information. I had a bilateral meeting just last week with the president and requested that we pull that information together so we can make an informed decision.”

Hanson said the board’s decision “removes the potential for setting time-of-use prices to sell electricity at a lower price during off-peak hours.”

The Yukon has never had such a system, Whitehead said, and it seems YEC is nowhere close to setting one up.

“It would be a total rate structure change, which is pretty major,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest, but we’re not able to have a time-of-use rate.”

Speaking with reporters after question period, Pillai said he “believes in” DSM programs.

“We have more energy being used, we have a growing population and we know it’s very expensive to produce more energy, so if we can make better use of the energy we have, that just seems to be good common sense,” he said.

“At this point in time, we’re gonna see what plays out with Yukon Energy’s conversation, one, and, two, I’m going to contemplate what the next set of actions are.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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