Ice buildup at Aishihik reinforces need for firm power in the winter

Mar 01, 2024  Comment

Events at Yukon Energy’s Aishihik hydro plant in late January have reinforced the importance of backup sources of firm winter power. These backup sources are important as they help Yukon Energy provide electricity to Yukoners during extraordinary events, including equipment failure and prolonged cold weather events.

They also help Yukon Energy to meet growing peak demands for power in the winter and safely and reliably integrate more intermittent renewables onto the system.

Resources like hydro, LNG and diesel provide the firm, dependable capacity that can be called upon 24/7 to generate electricity when needed. Resources like solar and wind, on their own, cannot be relied on to do the same due to their variable nature.

There were no power outages while the Aishihik hydro facility was offline because Yukon Energy was able to use its LNG, diesel and back-up rental diesel units to generate electricity in its place. While the plant was offline, the supply of electricity to mines was reduced and ATCO’s diesel units were used to generate electricity. Without these resources, power outages would have occurred.

Although rare, the loss of a major hydro unit during the winter can be a serious situation. As electricity becomes more commonly used for heating, extended power outages can pose risks to public safety. Backup sources of firm capacity help to prevent or reduce the duration of power outages. The last time the Aishihik hydro facility was forced offline was in 2017, which caused several power outages to customers.

Planning for next winter

Yukon Energy’s priorities remain focused on making sure there’s a sufficient supply of power generation and reducing peak demand for power during the winter. To prepare for next winter, Yukon Energy will:

rent 22 diesel generators to provide the back-up power needed during winter peaks and emergencies;

continue to offer Peak Smart Home, a program that helps Yukoners shift the use of their electric heat and hot water tanks to off-peak times;

formalize mutual aid agreements with partners who can curtail electricity use during emergencies; and

explore options to procure additional resources to support emergency response efforts.

Planning for the future

Yukon Energy’s Electricity Supply Plan, scheduled to be released this summer, will identify the resources needed in the next five to ten years to reliably meet growing demands for electricity, reduce reliance on rental diesel generators, and reduce emissions from electricity generation.

Partnerships with First Nations governments will be key to implementing the plan. Funding from all levels of government will also be critical to keeping the cost of projects low and electricity rates in the Yukon affordable.

Quick facts

  • The Yukon grid is not connected to any other province or territory. Yukon Energy cannot import electricity when needed or export power to other jurisdictions when there is a surplus.
  • On average, more than 90% of the electricity Yukon Energy generates each year is renewable and generated at hydro plants in Aishihik, Mayo and Whitehorse.
  • In the Yukon, demand for electricity is two to three times higher in the winter than in the summer.
  • While the Yukon typically has a surplus of renewable power available in the summer, there’s not enough hydro resources available in the winter to generate all the electricity Yukoners need during those months. LNG and diesel are used to fill the gap between the amount of electricity Yukoners need and what can be generated using hydro.
  • Peak demand for electricity has increased by 23% in the last five years [from 2017 to 2022] and is expected to continue with an additional 36% increase in non-industrial peak by 2030.


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