Yukon seeks comment on independent power policy

The Yukon government has released a draft of its independent power production policy.

The Yukon government has released a draft of its independent power production policy.

When it is implemented, it will allow smaller independent power generation projects to sell energy to Yukon’s grid and off-grid communities.

The purpose of the policy is to “update and develop a policy framework for electricity that emphasizes efficiency, conservation and renewable energy,” according to the document.

But the focus is not exclusively on energy from renewable sources.

It also “calls for the replacement of imported diesel fuel with Yukon’s oil and gas resources.”

That is a “complete contradiction,” said Anne Middler, energy co-ordinator with the Yukon Conservation Society on Thursday.

“The point of independent power production should be to add renewables to the grid and not to further entrench and expand our use of fossil fuels for electricity. Our public utility is already doing that, we should not be creating a policy that allows our government or our utilities to purchase dirty electricity that is generated from burning fracked gas to power the Yukon.”

There are two types of projects that fall under the policy.

Smaller projects selling either to Yukon’s main grid or to Watson Lake will get a guaranteed price per kilowatt hour. Those projects have to be fuelled by renewable energy sources.

Independent power producers with a larger scale project or wishing to sell to smaller diesel communities will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

At that level of assessment, both renewable and natural gas fuelled projects will be considered.

The reason for that, said Energy Minister Scott Kent, is because it could help smaller communities get off burning diesel.

“We want to look to a cleaner-burning fuel, and we feel that natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel.”

It also could help out mining companies who wish to fuel their operations with liquefied natural gas, because it may allow them to sell excess power generated back to the Yukon.

“The Wellgreen (platinum project), for instance, is very close to Burwash Landing, and if they generate excess power at their mine operation, they may want to sell that excess power into the grid in Burwash and Destruction Bay.”

No Yukon mining operations are currently burning LNG as fuel, although some have expressed interest in the technology, including the proposed $2.5-billion Casino copper mine.

NDP energy critic Kate White said allowing independent power producers to burn fossil fuels isn’t good enough.

“The common misconception that natural gas is cleaner than diesel – we need to put it to bed. (Over its) lifecycle, it’s worse than diesel.

“There are other ways to increase our power production and fight climate change at the same time. But if this government only wants to focus on natural gas, then it’s hard to feel like hope isn’t lost.”

She also said that the government’s stated intention to replace imported diesel with Yukon’s oil and gas resources pre-empts the public conversation currently underway about whether fracking will be allowed in the territory.

“It clearly shows the government’s intention to allow fracking in the Yukon. And to me, that’s disrespectful to Yukoners who are still going through the process with the select committee on the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing.”

The government will accept comments on the draft policy through July 25, 2014. There will be a consultation open house from 5 to 8 p.m. on June 25 at 206A Lowe St. in Whitehorse.

More information can be found at www.energy.gov.yk.ca.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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