Yukon Energy plans hydro upgrades, new diesel plant

Solar power, geothermal energy and pumped storage are not part of Yukon Energy’s proposed plan to supply the territory’s electricity for the next 20 years.

Solar power, geothermal energy and pumped storage are not part of Yukon Energy’s proposed plan to supply the territory’s electricity for the next 20 years.

Instead, the utility aims to upgrade its hydro facilities, invest in battery storage and build a new diesel plant at the Takhini substation north of Whitehorse.

Yukon Energy presented its action plan at a public meeting in Whitehorse Jan. 30. The plan is the culmination of 16 months of analysis.

According to that analysis, the Yukon already has an electricity gap. The utility is producing enough energy overall. But it isn’t necessarily able to cover periods of peak demand, particularly if facilities like the Aishihik hydro plant go down, which happened two weeks ago.

When that happened, Yukon Energy president Andrew Hall explained, the utility was running “pretty much everything we had” to keep the lights on.

“If it had been colder, it would have been a pretty ugly situation,” he said.

The plan includes three pathways to fill the energy gap, based on different levels of mining activity in the coming years. All three scenarios are the same until 2022.

They include energy conservation measures — like existing rebates on LED lights and block heater timers — the addition of a third generator at the LNG plant in Whitehorse, battery storage to supply extra electricity at peak times and the construction of a new diesel plant.

Hall said the diesel plant would rarely be used. “It’s your insurance policy against Aishihik going down.”

The plan also includes upgrades to hydro facilities and the reconstruction of the original Mayo hydro plant, which dates back to the 1950s.

In October 2015, when Yukon Energy announced the review of its 20-year resource plan, it said that grid-scale wind and solar projects and pumped storage would be considered.

But in the end, pumped storage and solar didn’t make the cut, while wind power is only proposed as part of the high-industrial scenario, starting in 2022, when four hard-rock mines are supposed to be operating simultaneously. Small hydro projects would also be part of the mix if the territory’s mining industry picks up.

“It essentially came down to cost,” Yukon Energy spokesperson Janet Patterson told the News.

Price tags range from $207 million for the scenario with only one operating mine to $458 million for the scenario that has four.

All three would produce an electricity mix that is more than 90 per cent renewable.

Yukon Energy also analyzed the cost of meeting the territory’s needs solely with renewables. It found that would cost $785 million for an electricity mix that is 99.4 per cent renewable, compared to a mix that is 98.1 per cent renewable under the proposed plan.

But the plan did not get a warm reception from the 50 people present Monday evening. Some wondered why Yukon Energy isn’t pursuing the home heating market more aggressively, to get more people off oil. Others thought it might be possible to close the electricity gap using some combination of wind, solar and battery storage, instead of more gas and diesel.

Shane Wolffe said he doesn’t think Yukon Energy’s plan recognizes that renewable energy is getting cheaper.

“That scenario’s going to change rapidly in the next five years,” he said. “(The price) is going to keep dropping.”

Yukon Energy plans to release a draft plan in February, after a series of public meetings this week. The public will then have another month to submit additional feedback before the final plan is completed.

Hall said the utility is also working with the Yukon government to secure financing for the plan. The Yukon currently has a borrowing limit of $400 million, and already holds $202 million in debt.

“That’s a political issue, whether the Yukon needs to increase its debt cap,” Hall said. “But I can tell you that the investment of $300 million would require an increase to the debt cap.”

At the meeting, a few people questioned why ratepayers should bear the cost of upgrading energy infrastructure to support new mines in the territory.

Hall claims the upgrades between now and 2022 are needed whether or not new mines come on line. But he also told the crowd that Yukon Energy has an obligation to provide the infrastructure to allow mines to connect to the grid in most cases, because it has a monopoly.

That means the utility may have to make some upgrades very soon.

Victoria Gold Corp. announced last week that it plans to pour gold at its Eagle Gold project in 2018. But Yukon Energy is still waiting on federal funding to upgrade the Stewart-Keno transmission line, which Victoria Gold plans to connect to.

Hall said he’s not sure Yukon Energy can get enough power to the mine on the existing transmission line. If the utility can get financing for the project in the first half of this year, he said, it might be able to finish the upgrade in time to get Victoria Gold up and running by the end of 2018. But that’s not a guarantee.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read