Guy Morgan, Yukon Energy director of operations, and Jared Morgan, Yukon Energy plant operator, walk passed a hydro turbine at Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Jan. 17. A panel created to advise the Yukon government on its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has recommended reforming regulations and making a serious investment in renewable energy projects over the next five years. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon panel helps plan for more renewable energy

The majority of Yukoners want to see more green energy available in the territory, according to an expert who was part of a panel struck to advise the Yukon government on its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“They felt that there hasn’t been enough progress in recent years on developing new, clean, renewable energy projects,” John Maissan told the News.

“They also know that fossil fuel is the cheapest option in the short term and so they realize that there will be some additional cost” if more load is placed on renewable energy sources, he added.

The Yukon government released a draft plan in November that seeks to axe greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. Central to the plan is ensuring that 93 per cent of power is derived from renewable energy sources while balancing demand due to a growing population.

The panel is an offshoot of this work. It visited Whitehorse, Watson Lake and Haines Junction shortly after the plan was released in order to collect information from Yukoners and stakeholders.

The panel’s report says that thermal energy use has increased over several years, a result of changes like population growth, drought and new mines coming online.

“This increasing baseload of fossil fuel generation trend could see Yukon move below the government’s 93 per cent target in the coming years,” says the report.

It makes several recommendations for the government to consider. The plan is going to be finalized in June.

It says that conservation should be prioritized. Doing so means that energy demand should be reduced by 15 per cent, it says, adding that 25 per cent of energy should be deferred.

“Conservation and energy efficiency haven’t been part of our electrical culture, and they need to be,” Maissan said. “We have a utilities board that has discouraged Yukon Energy and ATCO from doing conservation, peak demand management, those kinds of things.

“They need to be allowed to manage those loads that contribute to that peak.”

For example, Whitehorse doesn’t have LED streetlights, said Maissan. He said ATCO wanted to install them but the board quashed this.

Andrew Hall, CEO of Yukon Energy Corp., acknowledged certain limitations.

“We have a regulatory challenge right now where the utilities board isn’t allowing us to pursue conservation programs, but we’re working with government to address that,” he said.

The report recommends reforming regulations so that the Yukon government isn’t hamstrung.

It goes on to say that the Yukon government should ensure “a serious investment” in hydroelectricity, pumped hydro storage and “large-scale solar and wind technology over the next five years.”

Harnessing biomass is another issue the panel suggests needs more movement on, adding that oil, propane heating contributes the second highest amount of greenhouse gases (16 per cent).

“Both cord wood and wood pellets cost significantly less than conventional heating sources, including electricity,” the report says. “Pairing biomass with electric heating could be incentivized to improve seasonal load, with electric heating during spring/fall, and biomass heating in winter months.”

Roughly 25 per cent of homes use wood as a heat source. This could be scaled up, the report says, “to convert half of the 69 per cent of homes that heat with oil to biomass.”

Contact Julien Gignac at

julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

energy sector

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