Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Chuck Tobin

PACKED HOUSE – A large audience gathered Monday evening for a meeting organized by Yukoners Concerned to discuss Yukon Energy’s proposal for a new 20-megawatt generating station powered by fossil fuels.

Energy future debated at public meeting

Scores turned out for Monday night’s meeting to discuss the territory’s energy future and the proposal to build a new generating station powered by fossil fuel.

By Chuck Tobin on June 11, 2019

Scores turned out for Monday night’s meeting to discuss the territory’s energy future and the proposal to build a new generating station powered by fossil fuel.

Those gathered at the Whitehorse Public Library ranged in age from elementary school students to seniors, and everything in between.

There were climate change activists, and representatives of the government and its Yukon Energy Corporation. There were those involved on the ground floor of the renewable energy industry.

For nearly two hours, the audience listened to presentations on different options available to make the Yukon’s electrical grid greener.

While Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai spoke of an array of significant renewable energy projects that are in the pipe, he defended the new generating plant as necessary to provide reliability in an environment of growing demand.

But the only moments of applause during the evening came with suggestions that it’s long past time to ditch fossil fuels in exchange for a future without climate strife.

As they’ve been doing of late, young students reminded the audience that without decisive measures, it will be them who are left to face the dire consequences of a warming planet caused by continuing greenhouse gas emissions.

“You will die from old age, we will die from climate change.”

The meeting convened not more than half an hour after a motion was introduced down the street at city hall by Coun. Steve Roddick calling on Whitehorse to declare a climate change emergency.

Yukoners Concerned organized the evening at the library to raise resistance to Yukon Energy’s proposal for a new 20-megawatt plant powered by burning natural gas or diesel fuel, or a combination of the two.

The Crown corporation is seeking public input on whether it should buy or rent the generating units, and where the plant should be located.

Depending on the direction Yukon Energy takes, a new generating station is estimated at between $40 million and $70 million.

Don Roberts of Yukoners Concerned told the audience if Yukon Energy goes ahead with such a large investment, the territory would be committed to fossil fuels for another 40 years or more.

The Yukon needs thermal generation for back-up, but not to provide base load energy, he said.

Roberts said climate change is a reality in the Yukon and around the world. The territory, he insisted, needs to do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Roberts said an investment in the order of $40 million to $70 million in thermal generation will leave no money for pursuing substantial investment in renewable energy projects.

“It’s all wrong because it is all fossil fuels, because it’s not the route we should be going down,” he told the audience.

The Energy minister said the government is working closely with several First Nations to advance renewable projects.

They’re working with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation to develop four megawatts of wind generation on Haeckel Hill to sell power back to the grid through the Independent Power Production Policy.

The Kluane First Nation is in the advanced stages of its wind project, and Old Crow is moving forward with its large array of solar panels to reduce emissions, he pointed out.

Pillai said the Carcross-Tagish First Nation is pursuing 10 megawatts of wind generation on Montana Mountain.

Altogether, he said, there are between 15 and 20 megawatts of new renewable energy generation on the books.

The study into the feasibility of tying the Yukon’s grid into Atlin’s hydro generating system is almost done, he told the audience.

The minister, however, maintains the reality is that the new thermal plant is needed to provide Yukoners with a reliable and stable electrical grid as demand for energy increases.

Generation by fossil fuels, he said, accounts for three per cent of the territory’s greenhouse gas emissions while transportation is by far the greatest contributor at around 60 per cent, followed by home heating fuel.

Pillai also committed to keep the conversation going by attending more public meetings, because it is community feedback that is most important.

Climate activist Sally Wright told the audience when she was chair of the board of directors for the Energy Solutions Centre from 2000 to 2003, the need to address climate change through a reduction in emissions was already identified as a priority.

It’s 20 years later, and there’s been virtually nothing to expand the territory’s ability to generate with renewable options, she pointed out.

NDP Leader Kate White told the audience there’s been plenty of talk in her years as an opposition MLA, but no walk.

Her party would walk the talk, she promised.

The audience also heard from local wind expert J.P. Pinard, Peter Kirby of Atlin’s Taku River Tlingit First Nation, Myles Thorp of Biomass Yukon and Steven Qui of Whitehorse’s Solvest solar business.

All of the renewable energy proponents presented options to move away from fossil fuels, options they insisted are real, viable and very much attainable.

The representative of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation told the audience how the run-of-the-river hydro project developed by the First Nation just celebrated its 10-year anniversary of taking the community of Atlin off diesel generation.

Every new home built by the First Nation is heated with electricity, and now they’re converting the older housing stock from heating fuel to electricity, he said.

Kirby emphasized the hydro project has not only resulted in a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but it has provided significant economic returns, and it has empowered the First Nation and the community.

The feasibility study into expanding the hydro system to generate enough power to sell to the Yukon is almost complete, but so far it’s looking positive, he told the audience.

Comments (24)

Up 2 Down 0

North_of_60 on Jun 17, 2019 at 6:43 pm

@Sally Wright, I'll start believing your anti-'fossil fuel' rhetoric when you start living like the Amish. The problem is that you and your alarmist cohorts lie so much. You lie when you refuse to confess that the climate prediction models you use are extremely flawed. You lie when you rant about the "97 percent consensus" that doesn't exist. You lie when you act like the real scientists who doubt man-caused global warming are all kooks and lunatics.

Most of all, your overblown, hysterical doomsday prophecies are lies. The world is supposed to already be over by now, according to you. At the very least, New York City should be under water. We should have all been dead from global warming or global cooling or overpopulation dozens of times over. Around the time of the first Earth Day, we were told that hundreds of millions would be starving to death per year within ten years of that date. Human civilization should have crumbled into dust and the few remaining survivors should be floating through a vast water world, locked in a struggle of survival against Dennis Hopper. Yet, here we are, standing on dry land.

How many times are you allowed to be wrong about the end of the world before we are justified in not taking you seriously anymore? I'd say that threshold, whatever it is, has long since been reached.

Up 1 Down 0

Wilf Carter on Jun 17, 2019 at 3:48 pm

Sally uses wood for fuel putting out lots of carbon. Cut a tree plant a tree.

Up 4 Down 17

Sally Wright on Jun 17, 2019 at 10:48 am

All these comments show that it is time for an Energy Forum and together our community of Yukon, needs to learn, share and discuss how we are going to get off of fossil fuels in every part of our society. There obviously needs to be a plan that everyone understands.
I want to thank all the presenters and the audience that were so engaged at the June 10th meeting. Many in the crowd are genuinely concerned about the world we are creating for our children.
Fossil fuels are the largest drain on our economy. It is time to be leaders in a better future.

Up 16 Down 0

Charlie's Aunt on Jun 15, 2019 at 4:15 pm

@ Mick; Where have you been? Maybe you could check out: https://yukonenergy.ca/media/site_documents/Summary_2016_Resource_Plan.pdf When this was released in 2016 YE had several suggestions for 'small hydro' sites, but someone had a reason to complain about them all. That was after they had considered a major hydro site several years ago & it caused an uproar. I seem to recall it was somewhere close to Five Finger Rapids. I entirely agree with MM & MyO that we need to look to hydro & try to work together on suitable sites whether it be large or several small ones.

Up 22 Down 1

Mike Miller on Jun 14, 2019 at 6:45 pm

yes let's get an estimate for nuclear power

Up 20 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jun 14, 2019 at 6:29 pm

@Just putting it out there
I am advocating for a greater discussion of ALL the energy options now and in the near future. Until they are honestly discussed with all the pros and cons included we'll never know what is possible and what it will cost in money, environmental impacts and a list of other criteria that all options should be measured against. Do a bit of research and see what some of the new buzz is. https://grist.org/article/next-gen-nuclear-is-coming-if-we-want-it/

Up 20 Down 1

Just putting it out there... on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:54 pm

Green Guy and Groucho - what ABOUT micro-nuclear? If we're talking 40-70 million for a diesel-natural gas hybrid just as a back-up generator, does it make sense to look at the cost of a small nuke? It could probably power the whole grid year-round and we could lose the dams.

Up 9 Down 18

Mick on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:21 pm

@ Madmax and My Opinion

When did Yukon Energy ever ID a location for a new hydro/electric project? Oh right, they didn't.
Stop manufacturing faux outrage and projecting it onto FN and 'environmentalists'

Personally I don't understand why an FN wouldn't want to create a endless revenue stream by building a damn and selling the electricity to the grid.

Up 23 Down 1

Max Mack on Jun 14, 2019 at 11:44 am

I agree with other posters. Hydro is the most economical way to go, but YEC has been blocked at every turn by the rapid environmentalists and FNs.

I also agree that YEC has been complicit in creating an energy crisis by not urging new buildings to use fossil fuel heating. Such a foolhardy game they are all playing.

Up 33 Down 2

My Opinion on Jun 12, 2019 at 7:39 pm

Several people here saying why do we not have more Hydro. I agree. However it is nearly impossible, you would not be able to get it passed in this day and age. First Nations own all the land. Most of them would be against the flooding. Greenies would be lined up against it as in BC with Site C. Same with Nuclear, not a chance the greenies would agree with that. Yukon Energy knows that going in so why discuss it.

People better figure it out. We need a back up plan or we are in big trouble.

Up 33 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Jun 12, 2019 at 4:37 pm

I read all the information materials provided by YEC in the consultation regarding the new power plant and not once did I read the word nuclear. Who determined that his option is not viable as a non-polluting energy source? Especially against the likes of another diesel consuming power plant? If the potential options are to be debated please include ALL the options for a fair discussion on how Yukon's energy future will unfold.

Up 15 Down 27

Miles Canyon on Jun 12, 2019 at 4:09 pm

There are 2 major problems at play here.

The first is the Yukon Energy keeps talking about current and future demand issues but they do not come up with any options which improve the situation.

The other issue is younger people who are mostly raised here who have zero energy conservation ethics. They want big homes and have gas guzzling trucks. The only way they can live and use energy and pollute the way they do is low interest rates and large debt load.
The issue is not Ontarians it's local entitlement.

Up 15 Down 35

Gordon Gilgan on Jun 12, 2019 at 12:46 pm

We have been having this discussion for over a decade. The purchase of three LNG turbines was a very big mistake. The government has had ample time to invest in renewable energy to add to the base load, we have well researched opportunities in Wind, Solar, biomass and geothermal generation that should have given us 20 megawatt already. All of these are available to the Yukon and all will help us to reduce the importing of fossil fuels which are continuing to contribute to climate change. If this government wants to demonstrate that it is serious about fighting climate change then it must start investing in renewable energy generating capacity now. The move by Yukon Energy to provide so called "insurance" by buying more thermal generating capacity is a clear indication that they are continuing to ignore the potential in renewable generation.

Up 17 Down 41

Corliss Burke on Jun 12, 2019 at 12:08 pm

If they do anything other than rent (not buy) another diesel generator, while heavily investing in renewable energy (now, not later), this government is not serious about getting off of fossil fuels. The litany of small projects presented by Minister Pallai at this meeting was a distraction from the fact that the Liberals have not moved in any significant way, towards renewable energy for the Yukon.
The time to invest heavily in significant renewable energy projects is now. The time to invest any more money in fossil fuel infrastructure is NEVER. Our time is running out, and presenting LNG as a "temporary solution" is dishonest. We are now stuck with 3 LNG generators, and we do not want more of them. LNG is the dirtiest fuel available, considering its lifetime greenhouse gas emissions. The Yukon Government is a dinosaur if it invests any more in fossil fuel infrastructure.

Up 37 Down 9

David on Jun 12, 2019 at 11:37 am

It is pretty pathetic how little has been done around the territory’s ability to generate with renewable. There is potential for geothermal but we always hear the same thing, "it's unproven and risky" - how can this be when it's so common in Europe and Scandinavia? I even know of several great examples that work very well over in Alaska.

Up 53 Down 7

Mick on Jun 12, 2019 at 10:36 am

What the hell is wrong with the government?
The issue of capacity has been coming down the pipe for decades and the best you got is a fossil fuel generation plant?

What a farce. Find a suitable river and build a friggin' dam.
Oh, and as far as Roddick's demand of declaring a climate change emergency what a waste of time and energy. We are well aware of this issue at hand and this declaration is nothing but political grandstanding. STFU and get to work fixing it.

Up 43 Down 9

Get real on Jun 12, 2019 at 5:27 am

If we sent all the Ontarians home, we'd have plenty of power! Sure, migrate here, drive up usage and cost, and complain we're "doing it wrong"!

Up 25 Down 13

Wilf on Jun 12, 2019 at 3:52 am

I find it quite interesting that no one there understands why our climate changes. It changes because the evolution of the earth, which is normal and will continue to be normal. But carbon is only 003% in our atmosphere of the world on average.
What are green house gases?

Up 36 Down 3

Woodcutter on Jun 11, 2019 at 11:06 pm

Why not place a thermal unit in Carmack? There's a mountain of coal that's been burning for decades and shows no sign of stopping. Kinda like they do in volcano rich areas of the world.

Up 18 Down 36

Lenore Morris on Jun 11, 2019 at 10:33 pm

Good work Yukoners concerned for organizing an informative and engaging public forum. The overflowing crowd demonstrated how much interest there is in the subject of energy. The reaction of the crowd to the various speakers demonstrated how much determination there is to move Yukon towards a lower carbon future.

Up 40 Down 0

Always Questions on Jun 11, 2019 at 7:35 pm

1. Why was it called an 'Energy Insurance' Plan? My experience with insurance is pretty much money for nothing and that's how I think of insurance. We're all gamblers.
2. We are a Territory full of lakes, rivers & streams, what's the hold-up with new Hydro-generating plant(s), even several micro sized community/neighbourhood plants? Land issues? I really would like an answer to this.
3. I also believe that the rate that YTG pays for fuel-oil is so very, very good it's tough for expensive renewables to compete.
4. A 40-50 year timeline is not unreasonable to wean off fossil fuels in the Territory (or anywhere)...
5. Too late for a Climate Emergency, just political lingo to put pressure on those of us that can least afford to transition, fear propaganda and manipulation. Regulate and collect fees from the Oil Barons of that Industry, manipulate them to change their ways!, eh? Citizens are demanding it, so supply it.
6. I think our biggest global problem is the garbage (recyclable or otherwise) we humans produce, THAT concerns me more than using fossil fuels in a certified, inspected efficient furnace for ~7-8 months a year to heat my insulated, efficiently built home with good seals and windows. See #5 again.
7. YAY! Atlin, of course it's looking positive, you really should be part of the Yukon xox
8 Youth of today, you won't die from Climate Change, if you live long enough you will more likely die of Cancer complicated by old age.
9. Reliable and stable generation should be and glad to hear is a priority.
10. I should have gone to the meet but, I get anxious in crowds, lol.

Up 49 Down 12

Max Mack on Jun 11, 2019 at 6:00 pm

As expected, the environmental zealots and self-interested businesses and First Nations have taken over the conversation. Rational voices would be wise to not attend these meetings as you will be a marked person.

No - there is no climate emergency. No - we are not going to die from climate change. No - our children will not die from climate change. No - there will not be a massive species die-off due to climate change.
Fossil fuels are relatively cheap and abundant and have very high energy density. In other words, they literally provide a lot of bang for the buck.

The climate activists will have you believe that low energy density "renewables" such as solar and wind can replace fossil fuels for an equivalent or lower cost. Such madness.

Up 37 Down 3

North_of_60 on Jun 11, 2019 at 3:03 pm

Hydroelectricity is the only renewable energy that can realistically provide for the Yukon's future.
Solar is not available when we need more energy, and spilling water while buying solar electricity at 3x the cost of hydro is a waste of our tax dollars.

Wind energy systems cost more to produce, install, maintain and decommission than the value of the energy produced. Wind energy systems are a scam to harvest government subsidies, not energy.
Yukon Energy could burn a lot less fossil fuel if they used the Marsh Lake dam to hold September water levels in the Southern Lakes Reservoir into the winter and spring. The infrastructure is already in place, it's 100% renewable energy and it's 5 times more efficient than wind or solar.
The only thing preventing responsible water resource management NOW is political meddling by influential NIMBYs.

Using less fossil fuel on the grid isn't a technical problem; it's a political problem.

Up 36 Down 5

green guy on Jun 11, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Nuclear or hydro please, those are the best green options available.

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