YEC reviews ways to meet future demand

Yukon Energy is updating its 20-year resource plan, which will outline how best to meet the territory's electricity needs from 2016 to 2035.

Yukon Energy is updating its 20-year resource plan, which will outline how best to meet the territory’s electricity needs from 2016 to 2035.

Andrew Hall, the corporation’s president, announced last week that Yukon Energy will ask the public for input.

“What are the priorities? Are they clean air, clean water, preservation of fish and wildlife, or preservation of wild and recreational lands? Are greenhouse gas emissions important? Or is it all about keeping costs as low as possible?” Hall said at a briefing.

The resource plan was last updated in 2011, and is due for review every five years.

The review is expected to last from 12 to 15 months. Yukon Energy will first come up with an estimate of how electricity demand will change over the next 20 years, and will then look at the gap between current energy supply and future demand.

The corporation will then come up with portfolios of different energy projects that might fill that gap, and will ultimately choose the best options. It expects to file an updated plan with the Yukon Utilities Board in 2017.

Hall said the public is encouraged to participate through public meetings, online surveys, social media and an interactive website found at yukonenergy.ca.

He said Yukon Energy will also be mailing out pamphlets with information about the state of the territory’s electricity supply to every household later this month.

Hall said the Yukon’s electricity outlook is different from what it was in 2011. At that time, Yukon Energy predicted that demand would continue to rise steadily.

“But what happened is our electricity load peaked in 2012 and we actually saw two years of declines,” he explained. “We had some warmer winters, and obviously the winter temperature is the key driver of our electrical demand. But also we’ve had a decrease in population growth.”

So far, demand in 2015 is essentially the same as last year, he said. But it’s unlikely that demand will stay flat for the next 20 years.

Hall said the utility will “cast the net quite broadly” when it comes to looking at different technologies.

One option is pumped storage, which involves using excess hydro power to pump water up to a high-elevation lake or reservoir, where it can be stored for use in the winter. It has the potential to reduce the territory’s dependence on fossil-fuel power during the winter months.

Hall said the corporation is exploring pumped storage at its Moon Lake project in B.C. “I think it’s definitely an interesting option. But what we really need to do is understand the economics of that, of what the economics of a pumped storage facility might be.”

He said a pumped storage facility would take at least five years to develop.

Grid-scale wind and solar options will be considered as well. Hall noted that the territory currently has about 14 residential solar systems.

However, non-renewable options will also be on the table. Hall said the territory will require diesel and liquefied natural gas power to meet winter peaks in demand for the foreseeable future. He said it’s possible a third diesel generator could be retired and replaced with an LNG generator at the new LNG facility in Whitehorse, but added that there’s “flexibility as to when that happens.”

He said the LNG generator would not be used to increase baseload power, but would essentially replace the diesel generator “megawatt for megawatt.”

Goran Sreckovic, Yukon Energy’s director of resource planning, said the review will be “technology-neutral.”

“We will evaluate every single resource option against a set of criteria, and those criteria will be technical, financial, social, and environmental,” he said. “So at the end of the day, any project that meets our criteria will be taken into account.”

Hall specified that the Yukon government’s plan to build a large, next-generation hydro dam will not be part of this resource plan.

He also said the plan will work on the assumption that the Yukon’s electricity grid will remain isolated from Outside.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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