Energy, Power, and People’s Patterns of Using Electricity

Oct 19, 2010  8

Here's today's question sent in by a Yukoner:

Does Yukon Energy have a shortage of energy or a shortage of power or both? If so, when does this happen and for how long? Please publish the power demand pattern so we can modify our behaviour accordingly. Also, please publish when you are using and when you are expecting to use diesel generators in Whitehorse so people can change their behaviour to try to minimize the burning of fossil fuels.

At this point we are not short of energy. In fact we have the ability to produce about 750 gigawatt hours of energy per year, which is more than enough to serve the needs of Yukoners. The problem is that close to half of that potential amount comes from a non-renewable source, diesel. We don't like to burn diesel unless we absolutely have to, since it's expensive and bad for the environment. Just as an aside, if we were to run all our diesel generators all of the time, it would cost us $90-million a year for fuel! What I would say is that we are approaching a time when we are expecting to be short of renewable energy produced from our hydro and wind generators. That's why we are devoting so much time to finding new sources of clean, renewable energy.

Similarly, we have enough power (the amount of energy, measured in megawatts, that we can produce at any given point). However there will be times in the winter when we will have to supplement our hydro power with some diesel-generated electricity. Over the last couple of years, this was only at peak times on cold days (over the breakfast hour and the dinner hour). As demand for electricity increases, we expect that we'll need to burn diesel for longer periods. So while it's important not to waste energy at any time, it is even more critical in the winter and especially around breakfast and dinner time during the winter months.

Last year we had a chart on our web site that indicated when we expected to have to burn diesel. We thought if people saw that we were entering the 'diesel zone' then they might voluntarily change their energy use habits (perhaps waiting until later in the evening to run their washer, dryer, or dishwasher for instance). The feed-back we received from people is that the chart was difficult to read and they wanted it in real time. We are re-designing it and I hope to have the new version on our website by late November or early December.

As well, we are in the midst of developing a Demand Side Management (DSM) program, which will focus both on ways Yukon Energy can be more efficient with our power and ways that the public can reduce energy consumption. For example, we have just installed six LED streetlights in Dawson City as a pilot project to see if they work in northern conditions. In locations further south the lights use at least 50 percent less power than regular lights and they last much longer. If the lights prove to be a good fit for Dawson we will look at installing LED streetlights in all the communities we serve directly, which includes Dawson, Mayo and Faro.

We also have a virtual energy savings home on our website, which provides tips on reducing energy consumption and reducing your electricity bill.

Watch for other DSM initiatives in the months ahead.
 

8 comments

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Comments

by Land Pearson

What about if we started having smart metering?  People would change their consumption habits if it affected the cost of their utility bill. Have power cheaper at night, so people will run the dish washer, the washer, the dryer, etc at night.  People will not voluntarily change their habits, there needs to be a benefit to them.

10.19.2010

by Yukon Energy

Yukon Energy is looking at a whole suite of possible options in terms of Demand Side Management and we certainly haven’t ruled anything out, including Smart Meter technology. That being said, Smart Meters are expensive and with our small rate base in Yukon, they may be unaffordable. Recently Yukon Electrical Company Limited asked the Yukon Utilities Board for approval to put in technology similar to Smart Meters, and the Board rejected the request.

I am aware of power monitors that you can buy at hardware stores in the territory. These devices can be attached to your meter and tell you how many kilowatt hours you have used/are using, in real time. I know of at least two models that are sold here in Yukon; one costs approximately $100 and a second model costs about $25.

10.19.2010

by Land Pearson

But why would I go get a device to tell me how much power I am using, if there is no gain to me? That would be 100 or 25 dollars wasted. There needs to be incentive to cause people to change habits. Why not allow people to put this on and they can submit reports so they get a rebate for increased power used in non-peak hours. This way if people want to adopt it they can. If people don’t, well no rebate for them.

10.19.2010

by Yukon Energy

The reason some people might want to purchase one of these devices is that it would allow them to monitor their power usage and look for ways of cutting back if they saw that their usage was more than desired. In the long-term, the devices would pay for themselves and then some in reduced power bills. However your suggestion has merit and I will pass it along for consideration to the team that is developing our Demand Side Management program.

10.20.2010

by Pat McMahon

To be fair to YECL, the YUB did reject their initial business case for automated metering / smart meters but the Board is obviously not against the idea since their decision in YECL’s case said “The Board encourages YECL to work with all Intervenors, including YEC, to review and assess the costs and potential benefits of the AMR project. Upon completion of the review, YECL is to submit a new business case that outlines the benefits of such a project over time, how it addresses the concerns raised by Intervenors, and describe potential economies by partnering with YEC and the City of Whitehorse in the scope and implementation of the project. The Board expects this business case to be filed with YECL’s next GRA”.  There is obviously more to come on this issue so YEC should not simply dismiss the idea.

10.26.2010

by Yukon Energy

Mr. McMahon, certainly we have not dismissed any possible options, including Smart Meters (see my earlier comment). I was merely pointing out that there are some challenges with that sort of technology in a place that has as small a rate base as Yukon does.

10.26.2010

by Pat McMahon

I agree that there will be challenges in the Yukon for advanced technologies like smart metering but the utilities should consider implementing pilot projects as part of their DSM efforts especially since the government (and its funding) appears to be taking the lead.  Experience in other jurisdictions can be used to a big advantage.

10.26.2010

by Yukon Energy

Yukon Energy is closely watching Smart Meter usage in other jurisdictions such as Ontario. The following article outlines one of the issues that we will have to address should we use Smart Meter technology…that of an individual’s privacy. http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/726528

10.26.2010