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RENTALS WILL CONTINUE – Above are the four mobile, two-megawatt diesel generators rented by Yukon Energy in 2017 to provide additional generating capacity in the winter. The Crown corporation rented six last year and will be renting nine this winter. Yukon Energy has announced it has cancelled a proposal for a new 20-megawatt, fossil fuel generating plant, and will continue to rent while pursuing renewable energy alternatives. Inset Leslie Cabott

Yukon Energy ices 20-megawatt generating station

Yukon Energy’s board of directors has cancelled the proposal to build a new 20-megawatt generating station powered by fossil fuels.

By Chuck Tobin on October 9, 2019

Yukon Energy’s board of directors has cancelled the proposal to build a new 20-megawatt generating station powered by fossil fuels.

Board chair Leslie Cabott informed Yukon Energy Minister Ranj Pillai of the decision on Oct. 1 by letter.

Pillai told the Yukon legislature of the decision Tuesday.

In her letter to the minister, Cabott wrote:

“After considering the results of the technical, environmental and socio-economic research, and the public feedback received, the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors has decided to look at ways to avoid building a single new 20 MW (megawatt) liquefied natural gas (LNG) or diesel facility.

“Our focus instead will be to look at options to add or replace capacity at our existing generation facilities as our fleet of diesel engines retire. In the interim, Yukon Energy will continue to rent diesel generators each winter to ensure an adequate supply of back-up power in case of an emergency.”

As part of its 20-year resource plan, Yukon Energy was hoping to have the new generating facility operational by early 2022, at an estimated cost of between $40 million and $70 million, depending on the solution chosen.

To provide for backup generation when demand peaks in the winter, the Crown corporation has been renting mobile diesel generators.

In 2017, it rented four, two-megawatt generators for the winter at a total cost of $700,000, not including the cost of fuel.

In 2018, it rented six units for a total generating capacity of 12 megawatts at a cost of $1.2 million. This winter, it is planning to rent nine, two-megawatt mobile units for a capacity of 18 megawatts at a cost of $2.2 million.

As of mid-morning today, 25 per cent of the electricity Yukon Energy was providing to the grid was being generated by natural gas.

Many comments received by Yukon Energy during its public consultation earlier this year regarding the proposal for a new 20-megawatt facility were opposed to the project.

Building such a facility would lock the Yukon into a future of dependency on fossil fuels producing greenhouse gas emissions while using up money that could otherwise be invested in renewable energy options, they said.

“The last thing the Yukon needs in a climate crisis is a discussion around new thermal (fossil fuel) capacity,” reads a summary of one of the questions in Yukon Energy’s public survey.

In reporting the board of directors’ decision to the house yesterday, Pillai emphasized how the government is currently developing a climate change, energy and green economy strategy to guide the Yukon over the next 10 years.

The strategy is being built in partnership with First Nations and municipalities with input from the territory’s youth, he said.

The minister noted the proposed 20-megawatt facility was central to meeting the growing demand for electricity in the Yukon. But it was also raising concerns among Yukoners, he told the legislature.

“At a time when we need to focus on the future and how to meet our energy needs in the face of climate change emergency, many Yukoners question the value of making capital investments in the burning of fossil fuels.”

Pillai told the house he was pleased to announce the board of directors had decided to cancel the project.

“Yukon Energy Corporation will focus instead on options to add or replace capacity to Yukon’s existing generation facilities as the diesel facilities reach end-of-life,” he said.

“In the interim, Yukon Energy will continue to rent diesel generators as necessary to ensure adequate backup power is available in the case of emergency in our territory.”

NDP Leader Kate White told the legislature the New Democrats support the decision to cancel the thermal facility.

“It is our hope that renting generators in the short term will allow Yukon Energy to take the steps necessary to establish renewable alternatives to fossil fuels,” she said.

Yukon Party Leader Stacey Hassard, on the other hand, wanted to know what the minister is planning to do now that the centrepiece of the 20-year resource plan has been cancelled.

The territory is growing and so is demand, given the new Whistle Bend subdivision and mining developments, he said.

“We want to know: what is the government’s plan to deal with power generation demands going forward?” Hassard asked.

“We need to have enough energy in place in case of an emergency, such as if one of our existing facilities experiences a failure.”

Hassard was also critical of the public consultation undertaken by Yukon Energy regarding the 20-megawatt facility, describing it as extremely short and largely concentrated in Whitehorse.

“We do not believe that such a short and limited consultation can be considered to be meaningful engagement,” he told the legislature.

“In fact, we have heard from many Yukoners who were not even aware the open houses were taking place until after they had concluded.”

Yukon Energy’s 20-year resource plan was updated in 2016. It sets out a number of projects to increase the corporation’s generating capacity by 44 megawatts or 33 per cent overall by 2025.

The new thermal plant accounted for almost half of the targeted increase in capacity.

Other projects identified in the resource plan include the third natural gas generator added to the LNG facility last year, with a generating capacity of 4.4 megawatts.

The plan also includes the new battery storage project, for which $25 million in federal and Yukon government funding was announced last month.

As well, the plan includes increasing water storage in the Southern Lakes to provide more renewable hydro generating capacity in the winter.

The proposal, however, has run into staunch opposition by residents of the Southern Lakes since it was first proposed in the early 2000s.

Yukon Energy has renewed the project proposal and is currently conducting public consultations.

Comments (20)

Up 0 Down 0

Clifford on Oct 16, 2019 at 5:17 am

@Michael Miller, FYI: Dease lake has power lines that come up the Stewart - Cassiar that dwarf anything we have in the Yukon. I don't think we'll be selling them much power but I would say it could go the other way. Take a drive sometime it's beautiful country with power towers that look like they could supply Los Angeles. As an aside and with all the infra-structure talk in these comments does anyone know what infra-structure was obtained by the last heinous rate increases? No one at the power corp or YEC board seem to want to say.

Up 0 Down 0

Obi on Oct 15, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Dear Whitehorse Star...
Some peoples idea of free speech, is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.

Up 15 Down 5

Groucho d'North on Oct 13, 2019 at 11:01 am

I agree with Donovan's comments in that the so called "alternative energy" list used in these discussions here in the Yukon is the abbreviated version of available generation options. There are numerous successful programs at work around the world, but too often the utility decision makers are deciding what their political masters will be deciding on and only provide the options they understand and support.
Electrical energy is created by generation from a rotating magnetic field. These generators can be made to rotate by fossil fuels, wind or water. We can also harness the properties of the sun to produce photovoltaic electricity or heat water to form steam which under pressure will also rotate a generator.
Yes it's all that simple: We need a reliable, non-polluting method to boil water and we'll have all the electricity we need.
Nuclear power has come a long way in technology and really should be considered for our future needs. If the utility decision makers and politicians had the courage they would share a comparative analyses of all generation types with the public and cost out which offers the best Pro-Con assessment.
https://grist.org/article/next-gen-nuclear-is-coming-if-we-want-it/

Up 20 Down 0

Chris on Oct 11, 2019 at 7:24 pm

Mick
There is little question that Gringo is correct in saying that load growth due to the build out of Whistlebend (especially with its reliance on 'green' electric heat) is significantly responsible for increased thermal generation, from either diesel or nat gas. Using electricity for heating is ridiculously inefficient when the electricity is sourced from thermal generation. Oil stoves are 80-90% efficient while heating with electricity sourced from thermal gen is 30-40%, at best. The only thing 'green' about WB is the insulation standard, which is laughably debatable as well due to the majority of the insulation being hydrocarbon based products.

You continue with this, "Home owners don't get to decide where/how their Energy is generated, that is the job of the utility and YG." Seriously? Did you read the article that you are commenting on? It is literally about homeowners influencing how future energy will be generated. I agree that a new sizeable hydro facility is overdue, but "DECADES" ago that need didn't exist. Even 10 years ago it would have been nearly impossible to raise the necessary capital and get the stakeholders to agree. Surprise, special interest groups are difficult, government is short sighted and money doesn't grow on trees (but taxes do apparently). Bribing people to conserve energy doesn't work. Wind and solar for base load doesn't work and batteries only shift load. Back to the opinion drawing board with you.

Up 16 Down 2

Donovan on Oct 11, 2019 at 4:43 pm

Why are we not looking into Swiss designed, Super blaster plants? Like the ones used in Europe and the US?  The one for Nye County, Nevada, is recycling used tires with final stack emissions well below environmental standards. In Europe they are burning trash in these multi level incinerators.  In each of these situations they are stripping off the chemicals and gasses for recycling. In Nevada they strip off millions of tons of high quality steel first, then they strip of carbon black (enough to drywall 10,000 home a year, or over 10 million tubes of ladies lipstick). The gasses (argon, sulpher, etc) are then striped off with CO2 being pumped next door to Nevadas largest tomato growing greenhouse.  The end result is smokestack emissions of 95% water vapor.  There are other ways that are Green, if you are willing to think outside the box. Unfortunately it's the uneducated NIMBYs that usually stop these plants from being built.

Up 11 Down 9

Wes on Oct 11, 2019 at 3:39 pm

Obi, maintaining mean summer high water is not the same as maintaining flood levels. Why would Southern Lakes residents be compensated for damage that would not be incurred?

Blaming First Nations because there is no new hydro mega-project is just ridiculous. All renewable energy sources come with costs, and hydro is no different. Just look at Site C for confirmation of that.

We need to take a very hard look at the nuclear option.

Up 18 Down 11

Obi on Oct 11, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Hi Jean:
Implementing the Southern Lakes Storage Project will come with a definite result for all Yukon taxpayers.
They will be paying millions to Southern Lake residents for land and structure damage that will be on going. They also plan to pay for this expense by charging all residents of the Yukon increases in your electrical bills.
For the amount of power it generates in the winter months, its not a very good deal... Just another stop gap measure instead of doing what should be done, and that is BUILD A NEW DAM!

Up 36 Down 1

Dave on Oct 11, 2019 at 1:47 am

Thank goodness infrastructure was built in this Territory in the 1940’s and 50’s. With the handwringers we have both for residents and decision makers today we’d all be in the dark without the progress made decades ago that we still rely on today.

Up 25 Down 2

Gringo on Oct 10, 2019 at 10:43 pm

@mick...I can see the forest for the trees, I can even see the forest being harvested to generate power and heat for homes however this is frowned upon likely by people like yourselves....nimbys! Hydro you say...ole bean...good luck with that, too many self serving interests. In the meantime ....ole bean we will be spending 2.2 million to RENT the gen sets that burn diesel to power these so called Green homes. Does that really make sense...short answer...only in your world.

Up 27 Down 6

jean on Oct 10, 2019 at 6:57 pm

The Southern Lakes Storage Project should be implemented ASAP. It's totally renewable, way more efficient than wind or solar, and the infrastructure to make it happen is already there. The rest of the YE customers shouldn't be held hostage by a few influential NIMBYs who think holding September water levels through the winter would somehow 'inconvenience' them.

Up 31 Down 5

Michael Miller on Oct 10, 2019 at 5:01 pm

Watson Lake would be a good location for nuclear power generation for the Yukon and we could also sell power to the BC grid down Stewart Cassiar highway and mines near Dease Lake.

Up 9 Down 28

Mick on Oct 10, 2019 at 3:47 pm

Gringo

You can't see the forest for the trees ol bean! Whistlebend IS green. Super densified. High efficiency homes. Eventual walkability and eventual transit once it's all built out.

Home owners don't get to decide where/how their Energy is generated, that is the job of the utility and YG. They are the one's who for DECADES have dropped the ball on building a new green(er) generation project. Hydro. Intensives for homeowners to update to newer technologies. Wind. Sun. Battery options.

Up 19 Down 3

David on Oct 10, 2019 at 1:20 pm

This is great news!
However, this sentence is very concerning: "the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors has decided to look at ways to avoid building a single new 20 MW (megawatt) liquefied natural gas (LNG) or diesel facility". They've just decided to look into it now??!? What have they been doing for the past 30 years?!?

Up 46 Down 11

Obi on Oct 10, 2019 at 9:38 am

"BUILD A NEW DAM!" We have the rivers, we have the majority of residents who want and need it. Why are we always held hostage by 14 percent of our population?
Common sense should prevail, and the greenie, save the squirrel rabble, that seems to control Sandy and his followers should be told to take a hike.
The next Territorial election cannot come soon enough, and the majority of Yukoners should let those in power know that this continual dithering by the minority factions, is a total waste of our time and money......

Up 32 Down 6

jc on Oct 10, 2019 at 8:52 am

I agree with you Gringo and Max. To tie this decision to the "Climate Emergency" is very irresponsible. The thing is...the insulated population of green activists..climate change emergency echoers...do they not realize that BC largest mineral export is coal..and it goes to Asia..we are not the largest problem..not even close..there are a 4 billion people relying on coal as the primary source of fuel...it is like we need to suffer.. I am not sure we have any common sense anymore. But I think the real reason this project got canned is YG is broke...they cannot afford it..but are using the climate as scapegoat..

Up 23 Down 16

JC on Oct 9, 2019 at 7:58 pm

Let's construct more bird killing wind turbines and solar panels. The Yukon has too many birds. Their defecation habits are causing too much emissions and causing climate change. Someone inform Princess Greta.

Up 19 Down 5

Joe on Oct 9, 2019 at 7:54 pm

Leslie Cabott is chair of the board ? Omg... it’s who you know I guess

Up 15 Down 1

martin on Oct 9, 2019 at 5:06 pm

Crisis in the Yukon?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/09/polluters-climate-crisis-fossil-fuel?CMP=share_btn_link

The big polluters’ masterstroke was to blame the climate crisis on you and me | by George Monbiot

Up 51 Down 6

Gringo on Oct 9, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Love the fact that Whistlebend is “green”! Since those homes went up Yukon Energy had to install a 3rd LNG plant and rent 4 mobile diesel gen sets just so the place doesn’t implode, that is not the definition of green. All the talk now is Hydro, can you imagine the ringamoreroll involved with the Various FN’s, Yesab, etc, not going to happen.

Up 71 Down 9

Max Mack on Oct 9, 2019 at 3:40 pm

This is a very disappointing decision. Once again, a very vocal but small minority is dictating energy policy in the Yukon.
Hydroelectric isn't allowed, because that's apparently not "green" enough. Fossil fuel generation isn't allowed because "climate". Nuclear isn't allowed because it's "scary".

So, we are left with nothing but the most expensive and least reliable options: solar and wind. This option has the First Nations rubbing their hands in glee, as it will be their developments and investments that reap the windfall of public subsidies on these projects.

I'm afraid the fix is in, folks. And, life is about to get very, very expensive.

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