Yukon, Alaska to study cross border power link

The Yukon and Alaskan governments are putting up $150,000 each to study a possible electrical grid link between Skagway and Whitehorse.

The Yukon and Alaskan governments are putting up $150,000 each to study a possible electrical grid link between Skagway and Whitehorse.

The money comes from an agreement signed on Friday in Skagway by Energy Minister Scott Kent, Economic Development Minister Currie Dixon and Alaska’s commissioner of economic development, Susan Bell.

“We’re going to conduct a few different studies,” said Dixon. “One is a high-level investigation into the feasibility of an electrical grid extension from Whitehorse down into Skagway.

“Basically, we’re looking at if that grid extension were to come into existence, what potential projects could be added to it? West Creek is definitely one of them,” he said.

Skagway has asked the Alaskan government to help build the West Creek hydro project for the past six years. Its extra power would help run the cruise ships that dock at its port. Right now, the cruise ships depend on their diesel engines, leaving a haze of exhaust hanging in the area.

A year ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated that ships switch to a more environmentally friendly, low-sulphur fuel while docked in port. But it’s still far from clean. If the borough can provide a power hook-up for the ships, they can turn their engines off altogether while in port.

In March, the state said no to a feasibility study on the hydro project itself, nearly dashing Skagway’s hopes of seeing West Creek come to fruition anytime soon.

This new feasibility study could help show that West Creek is not only possible, but is mutually beneficial to both Alaska and the Yukon, said Dixon.

“It theoretically could provide cruise ships with power in the summer when they need it in the ports there, and provide us with the power when we need it in the winter,” Dixon said.

Along with looking at a possible power grid link to Southwestern Alaska, the two countries will also look at sharing a fibre-optic link as well.

In August the Yukon government announced another feasibility study to look at providing a fibre-optic link through Carcross to Skagway and then underwater to Juneau.

That study is being carried out by Dempster Energy Services, a co-operative venture between the Gwich’in and Nacho Nyak Dun development corporations and Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation’s Chief Isaac Incorporated.

Dixon said Alaska is currently examining connecting Juneau and Ketchikan to Prince Rupert. If the Yukon government can prove up its case for a Whitehorse-Skagway cable and tie that link through Juneau, it could help provide faster, more reliable Internet to Yukoners.

The feasibility study for the electrical grid is already underway. The initial stages of the study should be completed in the first half of 2014.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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