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.


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