A 2014 poll of Yukon residents found that 94% of Yukoners tried to conserve energy whenever possible. 71% said they followed issues, developments, and current events in the energy industry regularly. Those responses are significantly higher than the Canadian average.
As is the case in the rest of Northern Canada, we have a unique relationship with our energy needs and consumption, paying particular attention to it because we know it is central to our lives. Efficiency and conservation in our energy use is important – it means keeping to our emissions reduction commitments, taking care of the environment, and reducing waste.
Even though most electricity in Yukon comes from renewable sources today, a significant number of remote communities are still separated from the energy grid and depend on shipped in diesel to survive. Moreover, while over the course of a year hydro generated electricity still comes out as number one, in the winter months even communities that generally use hydro find themselves needing to supplement with diesel.
A report from five years ago by the National Energy Board outlined a number of strategies Northern communities could be using to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
- Energy conservation and efficiency,
- Diesel generator improvements, and
- Solar, fuel cells, storage and hybrids
The recommendations above are in various stages of implementation in Yukon. We continue to prioritize hydro. Yukon Energy is working to expand wind on a large scale. Government has adopted a broader biomass strategy, and meanwhile many communities are moving to the use of wood pellets for heating. The Kaska Nation is currently leading the way on geothermal exploration and it looks promising.
Our territorial government has been working to carry out the Energy Strategy for Yukon. Its priorities are well in line with the NEB’s suggestions:
- Sustainability: building an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable energy sector.
- Energy security: providing a secure and reliable supply of energy for Yukon.
- Self-sufficiency: responsibly developing Yukon’s energy resources to meet energy needs.
- Optimize benefits: benefiting from energy development, conservation and use.
- Climate change coordination: coordinating climate change and energy policies.
- Leadership: the Yukon government will be a leader.
- Partnerships: working in partnership to develop and manage energy resources.
A pan-territorial report on renewable potential in the North, A Northern Vision, was put together by the NWT, Yukon, and Nunavut governments. In addition to all the technologies mentioned above, the research identifies potential in residual heat recovery, a form of capturing residual heat from diesel generation which can be useful for heating communities, “as long as fossil fuel-based generation is used.”
It’s critical that we transition. The government’s emphasis on rapidly embracing renewable technologies is just one indicator of how seriously our territory is taking it. But as the Northern Vision renewables inventory repeatedly identifies, the need to shift towards green doesn’t mean that fossil fuels will suddenly stop being a major source of energy in Yukon.
As long as they are, we must continue doing our best to maximize their efficiency, just as we must do everything it takes to implement renewables to make them fulfill an increasingly larger percentage of our energy supply. All diesel used in Yukon is imported and will continue to be, even if gradually displaced or reduced. Poor supply infrastructure for sourcing diesel and other vital fuels only hurts us. Let’s fix that.