Yukon Energy plays catch up

Yukon Energy is playing catch-up when it comes to meeting the territory's energy needs and searching for innovative alternatives. One would have been district heating in Whitehorse's new Whistle Bend subdivision.

Yukon Energy is playing catch-up when it comes to meeting the territory’s energy needs and searching for innovative alternatives.

One would have been district heating in Whitehorse’s new Whistle Bend subdivision.

“Yukon Energy has decided that we’re going to be involved in district heating,” said Yukon Energy Corporation CEO David Morrison.

“But we came to that decision too late to do anything at Whistle Bend. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity.”

Morrison made these remarks in a speech at the Old Fire Hall on Tuesday morning, at a breakfast event sponsored by the Yukon and Whitehorse chambers of commerce.

He spoke about Yukon Energy’s recent charrette and the corporation’s plans for the future.

A lot of those plans involve public consultation.

And there don’t appear to be any large projects in the works.

“There are a lot of possible hydro projects, but none of them are easy,” said Morrison.

“There are wind projects too, which aren’t cheap or easy but they work. So choices are going to have to be made.”

This summer, Yukon Energy Corp. will be focusing on “demand-side management”- which basically means getting people to use less energy.

“It’s the cheapest kilowatt hour of energy that we can buy,” said Morrison.

“We can do demand-side management a lot cheaper than we can add new capacity and we can do it quicker, but only if everybody gets on the bandwagon and everybody participates.

The utility plans to hold energy management workshops for businesses on June 21.

Workshops focused on municipal and First Nation governments will be held on June 22 and 23.

Yukon Energy will be providing incentives for Yukoners to cut their energy use, said Morrison.

It’s unclear right now what these incentives might be, but the corporation hopes to roll out various programs throughout the summer.

One possibility is a rebate program. If ratepayers can demonstrate they have reduced their consumption, they would receive some extra money – or at least a smaller energy bill.

But how this will be demonstrated and how large the rebate might be is still up in the air, said Morrison.

“We still have to work out the details.”

With the northern and southern grids scheduled to be connected the first week of June, and the Aishihik’s third turbine scheduled to be ready shortly thereafter – the territory should be able to meet current demand.

But for Roger Rondeau, the head of the Utilities Consumers’ Group, the biggest issue is mines.

Dawson has been burning diesel year-round.

“We all know why they’re burning that diesel – it’s to provide power for Alexco,” said Rondeau.

“Alexco is paying 11 cents per kilowatt hour and it’s costing Yukon Energy some 30 cents per kilowatt hour – probably 35 now – to burn diesel.”

Mines pay for transmission lines, but they don’t pay for expensive capacity expansions to the grid – like Mayo B and the Aishihik third turbine.

“These are big outside companies that are making megabucks right now,” said Rondeau.

“And they’re paying less than a third of the cost if they had to provide their own power.”

Rondeau is concerned that the rest of the cost is being foisted on ratepayers.

“The debate with any new mine has to be: Can we serve them, do we have the power, what’s the price, should we even let them do their own if they’re going to use fossil fuels?” said Morrison.

“Or should we be saying to people that they can’t do that, they should be using biomass or microhydro?”

Morrison hopes that frequent consultations with Yukoners will help him answer these questions.

The charrette report will be out in the next two weeks, followed by a draft of the 20-year resource plan later in the summer.

“We may not get it right the first time, but we’ll certainly take the resource plan draft out for discussion as we get it done,” said Morrison.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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