Andrew Hall, president and CEO of Yukon Energy, answers a question regarding new energy projects in the Yukon during a press conference in Whitehorse on Sept. 5, 2019. Yukon Energy has released a sneak-peek at a draft of its 10-year renewable energy plan, featuring three new proposed projects it says will be crucial to meeting the territory’s electricity needs and emission-reduction goals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon Energy releases summary of draft 10-year plan

The corporation proposes three new projects to meet the Yukon’s renewable-source electricity needs

Yukon Energy has released a sneak-peek at a draft of its 10-year renewable energy plan, featuring three new proposed projects it says will be crucial to meeting the territory’s electricity needs and emission-reduction goals.

Yukon Energy CEO Andrew Hall debuted the draft summary at a renewable energy conference in Whitehorse on Jan. 29. It was posted to the corporation’s website the same day.

“Our draft 10-Year Renewable Electricity Plan presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Yukon to invest in the critical renewable electricity projects needed to fuel our lives, our work and our economy with clean energy,” the summary reads.

“It creates opportunities for our corporation, First Nations governments and development corporations, the Yukon and federal governments, and Yukoners to jointly shape our electricity future.”

The summary highlights three “key” projects Yukon Energy is proposing be completed by 2030 — building a pumped storage facility on Moon Lake, in the Atlin area; sourcing electricity from the hydro plant in Atlin following its planned expansion; and expanding and upgrading the transmission network in the Southern Lakes region.

The pumped storage facility would be the first of its kind for Yukon Energy and would see water pumped uphill into a reservoir using the excess energy it generates in the summer. The water can then be released downhill when needed — during spikes in electricity consumption in the winter, for example — to generate electricity.

The three new proposed projects would be on top of the corporation’s ongoing projects, including investing in battery storage, purchasing electricity from independent power producers, uprating two Whitehorse hydro units and demand-side management programs.

The projects, in total, are estimated to cost “in excess of $500 million,” the summary says, which would be “our largest investment in the electricity system.” Federal funding is anticipated to cover most of that cost.

In an interview Jan. 30, Hall admitted that there was a “scramble” in the final portion of 2019 at Yukon Energy following two major developments — first, its decision to cancel plans for a 20-megawatt diesel plant after the idea was panned by the public, and the Yukon government releasing a draft of its climate change strategy, Our Clean Future.

Among other things, Our Clean Future proposes having 93 per cent of electricity used in the territory generated via renewable sources, as well as shifting towards having more electric vehicles and electric heating in buildings.

“We could see increased demand for electricity based on the government’s plan, and so we needed to go back to the drawing board and really update our future plan so that we can support the government accordingly in their objective,” Hall said.

Of the three new projects, Hall said buying electricity from the expanded Atlin power plant would be the “nearest-term” — if everything goes smoothly, it could be realized within three to four years. The Moon Lake pumped storage station would take the longest at eight years due to the extensive and possibly trans-boundary permitting that would be required, with the Southern Lakes grid expansion falling somewhere in-between.

The Southern Lakes expansion would connect more small-scale electricity-generating projects as well as Atlin hydro and Moon Lake to the main grid, and Hall said Yukon Energy will be looking at using existing right-of-ways instead of clearing new land.

Should all the projects in the draft come to fruition, the draft summary says 97 per cent or more of Yukon Energy’s electricity will come from renewable sources — higher than the Yukon government’s goal of 93 per cent, but lower than the 99.7 per cent the corporation generated about a decade ago.

Hall acknowledged Yukon Energy previously produced more electricity from renewable sources than it’s aiming to now, but also said that “93 per cent is not low.”

“I think you just run into practical considerations where we have an isolated grid and from time to time you do need to use fossil fuels for emergencies, for when we have outages, when we have to do maintenance on some of our hydro units, so the expectation of achieving something like 99 per cent — yeah, we’ve done it in the past but is it a practical target?” he said.

He added that the shuttering of the Faro mine, which coincided with the installation of a new Whitehorse turbine, resulted in a hydro surplus, an unusual circumstance, and that demand for electricity has also grown substantially in the past decade.

Hall said Yukon Energy has began “initial conversations” with First Nations who would be impacted by the proposed projects, but that the plan is still in its very early phases.

It’s also hard to predict all the variables on a plan of this scale — the public could disapprove of a project the same way it did of the 20-megawatt diesel plant — but Hall said he was “confident” in the plan’s benefits if fully executed.

“This is a large generational investment that’s going to happen and you know, we see the upside there, whether it’s … investment opportunities or contracting or really employment opportunities through the construction of those projects,” he said. “There’s lots to talk about there and work through, but we see the upside for everyone, for all Yukoners.”

The full draft plan is expected to be released at the end of February, with the final plan to be released in June following a public input period.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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