A Yukon Energy power dam photographed in 2013. Yukon Energy Corp. wants to build a thermal generating facility to be used as a backup in the event of a system failure or drought. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Yukon Energy pitches new power plant

Yukon Energy Corp. hopes to build a 20-megawatt facility

Yukon Energy Corp. wants to ramp up energy output by way of a new thermal generating facility.

It would be used as a backup in the event of a system failure or drought.

The facility would be 20 megawatts, larger than six diesel rentals that are roughly two megawatts each.

The goal is to segue to a more permanent solution, said Yukon Energy CEO Andrew Hall, rather than rentals, which are expensive.

“Renting is good in the short-term, it’s a reasonable solution, but in the long term, it really isn’t what a utility wants to do,” he said. “What we’re seeing is we’ve got population growth in the Yukon, strong new construction of houses and apartments and a lot of those are going with electric heat, which is great for the homeowner, but it drives peak demand.

“I think on an isolated system like we have, thermal plays an important role, and right now we’re short, in terms of what we have.”

In the last year, more than $1 million has been spent on diesel generators, but costs fluctuate year-to-year, Hall said. It’s an issue the company wants to ideally steer clear of.

“You’re a bit at their mercy and that makes us uncomfortable,” he said. “You want to own your assets so that you don’t have any risks of future costs.”

Proposed plans involve 20 options at five locations around the Whitehorse area, he added.

Diesel, LNG or a combination of the two, called “dual fuel,” are being pitched as fuel sources.

Cody Reaume, energy analyst for the Yukon Conservation Society, said it’s best to choose a temporary solution, one that would provide flexibility of investment into renewable energy sources.

Diesel, in other words, which can be integrated with “intermittent renewables.”

“We’re really disappointed to see this happening,” he said. “We would like to see Yukon’s energy system becoming more renewable energy, not less, and see it as an opportunity to reduce our fossil fuel consumption in other places such as home heating and transportation. Increasing our reliance on fossil fuels in electricity traps us from reducing reliance in other areas.”

That there have been energy shortages is a sign of what’s played out over the last decade, Reaume said.

“We’ve seen the Yukon’s energy demand grow pretty steadily and we’ve been relying on excess hydro back when the Faro mine closed in the late ‘90s. Instead of building new renewables (and) foreseeing this growth, Yukon Energy Corp. has waited and is now in a situation where, suddenly, we have drought years and everything is coming all at once and it’s a panic to build something right away.”

Diesel generators should continue to be rented, Reaume said.

“We see that as a much better option when we look at greening the grid because it’s not a long-term commitment to major infrastructure. It’s a reliable stopgap, so that they can continue to provide reliable energy and then we would like to see dollars put towards clean energy.”

Yukoners are able to comment on where the facility should go and fuel type until June 9. There are three forums through which feedback can be submitted: an open house in Whitehorse from June 1 to 6; an online survey; or via email at communications@yec.yk.ca

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

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