Yukon is an islanded electricity grid. What if we were to connect to North America for electricity?
Yukon’s electricity grid is not connected to any other jurisdiction (BC, Alaska, Alberta or NWT) in Canada. This means we are an islanded grid and must rely on our own resources for power.
As an islanded grid we must ensure we plan smartly for our electricity supply. We must always be sure to maintain a careful balance between the cost of electricity and having enough electricity to serve our needs reliably. In addition, the environmental and socio-economic effects of our energy sources, whether we produce our own power, or buy it from other places, must be considered.
Connecting to another jurisdiction could offer several benefits including: the opportunity to buy electricity when needed, thereby minimizing the risks of having insufficient electricity, and the opportunity to sell power to our neighbouring markets as a source of revenue.
There are a wide range of considerations when looking at connecting to another grid. From a technical perspective we need to understand the regulations that govern electrical grids in neighbouring jurisdictions, how much electricity can be traded between jurisdictions, interconnection transmission line distances, the costs associated with transmission line construction, and operational constraints concerning how much electricity can be moved across the long distances to our neighbours.
In addition to technical considerations we must look at the market for electricity. Who can we buy electricity from, who can we sell electricity to? How much would this electricity cost compared to developing our own source of electricity? What trade measures and agreements would need to be in place to ensure we received fair value for our electricity?
The technical team is currently working on two technical papers to explore these questions. The first will explore the technical and regulatory requirements and opportunities as well as costs to connect Yukon’s electrical grid to a neighbouring jurisdiction. The second will explore the market opportunities for trading electricity with neighbouring jurisdictions.
Yukon’s geographic isolation has meant we have had to rely on our own resourcefulness for electricity. How can hydro help us to continue this legacy?
Yukon is on an isolated electrical grid. This means that we cannot buy power from other jurisdictions like Alaska or B.C. We have relied on our own resourcefulness and abundance of water to produce a legacy of affordable renewable power in the territory. Today we use almost all of the renewable power we produce. We must start planning to meet the needs of our growing population 20-50 years from now.
On an isolated grid, planning electricity supply can be a challenge. We must have enough energy and capacity on the system to meet our needs on the coldest darkest day of the year. We also must ensure that there is enough dispatchable power available for back up.
Hydro is a dispatchable power source that provides reliable energy at an affordable cost with a long life span. Next Generation Hydro is exploring what role hydro can play to meet Yukon’s energy needs. The technical team is studying 10 potential hydro sites to understand their costs, benefits and effects. A viability study will be produced in the fall of 2015 with the goal of producing a business case recommendation for one or more potential hydro projects.
Yukoners use more electricity in the winter when it is cold and dark. How can hydro play a role in providing reliable winter energy in the future?
Developing an electrical grid is a complicated task. To plan adequately we must make sure there is enough energy on the system to serve our needs throughout the entire day. We must also make sure that we have enough capacity to serve the need (or load) at the times of day and year when we all need electricity the most – in the long dark winters. In addition we must make sure that we have backup power in case an electricity generator fails (for example if a tree falls on a transmission line, or a turbine is blocked).
Hydro is a tried and tested energy technology that provides over 60% of Canada’s energy needs. It is relied upon as an energy solution because:
- Hydro facilities have a long life and can last up to 100 years. As a comparison, wind technology must be replaced or updated every 20 years.
- Hydro electricity is dispatchable and can be relied upon 24/7, 365 days a year. Other dispatachable energy sources include thermal (diesel or LNG) or nuclear.
- Hydro electricity is affordable. Because of their long life, hydro facilities can provide low cost electricity over their lifetime. In the Yukon we have a legacy of affordable electricity rates due to our hydro infrastructure.
All energy sources have a footprint. This is why a careful analysis of costs, benefits and tradeoffs must be completed. All of the hydro sites currently under review require reservoir storage to provide enough electricity to meet our needs. The Next Generation Hydro technical team will continue to work on each of the short listed sites to understand the costs, socio-economic and environmental effects and benefits, scalability, impacts to First Nations and social license for each site. This information will be compiled in a series of technical papers to be released for feedback in the fall of 2015.
Yukoners have relied on a legacy of affordable hydro electricity since 1907. What other hydro potential exists to meet the needs of the next generation of Yukoners?
The first hydro facility in the Yukon was constructed in 1907 to serve the goldfields in Dawson. Since then Yukon has developed three major hydro projects (Aishihik, Whitehorse and Mayo) and other smaller projects (such as Fish Lake) to serve its needs.
The technical team has reviewed over 200 potential hydro sites across the Yukon with the goal of recommending a shortlist of sites to review in depth for potential development. Previous studies were reviewed and projects were eliminated from consideration based on a range of factors including: proximity to a National Park, sites on the Yukon River, proximity to urban areas and sites under 10MW. Sites were also removed if anticipated costs were fundamentally uneconomic. To read the full results of the studies download Site Screening Report Inventory Part 1 and Site Screening Inventory Report Part 2.
Ten short listed sites remain as the only sites among 200 that met the criteria for further study. No site selection has been confirmed to date and much more work is required before a recommendation can be made.
The technical team will continue to work on each site to understand the costs, socio-economic and environmental impacts and benefits, scalability, impacts to First Nations and social license for each site. This information will be compiled in a series of technical papers to be released in the fall of 2015. A workshop and speaking event will be held to gather comments on this work.
Yukoners will need to generate 62% more grid supplied electricity by 2065. How can we fill the gap with reliable, affordable, renewable energy?
According to the Yukon Electrical Energy and Capacity Demand Forecast (2035-2065) Yukoners will consume 66% more energy by 2065 and this will require a 62% increase in electricity generation on the grid.
As our population grows and as our communities develop we will need more electricity to power our homes, schools, hospitals and businesses.
Today we use almost all of our renewably hydropower. There are many energy technologies, from solar to nuclear, that can be used to provide the electricity we need in the future. Next Generation Hydro is exploring what options exist to meet the need 20-50 years from today using hydro projects that are over 10MW in size.
It takes 10-15 years to develop a hydro project so we must begin this work today in order to meet future need. In the short term, Yukon’s two utilities, Yukon Energy Corporation and ATCO Electric Yukon, will continue to plan for the near future needs. In addition, Yukon Energy will soon be updating their 20 year Resource Plan which will create further opportunities to discuss our energy options.
Yukon’s energy partners and others across Yukon are exploring energy options such as wind, geothermal, pump storage and other forms of hydro. Yukon Energy is conducting wind research on Sumanik Hill and continues to research a number of hydro sites that range in size. Yukon Government will soon be launching the Independent Power Producer Policy and the existing micro generation program allows Yukoners and Yukon businesses to produce their own power. First Nations are exploring wind and geothermal and other renewable energy options across Yukon.
Next Generation Hydro Phase 1: Project Identification will produce a business case and recommendation for one or more potential hydro sites. This will allow Yukoners to better understand their energy options as we plan to meet future electricity need.