Demand for electricity in Yukon hits record high

·3 min read
Downtown Whitehorse in winter, March 2020. Yukon set a new record for electricity demand on Thursday when it reached 104.42 megawatts, about a half a megawatt higher than the previous record of 103.84 megawatts recorded on Jan. 14, 2020. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)
Downtown Whitehorse in winter, March 2020. Yukon set a new record for electricity demand on Thursday when it reached 104.42 megawatts, about a half a megawatt higher than the previous record of 103.84 megawatts recorded on Jan. 14, 2020. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)

A new record for electricity demand was set Thursday in Yukon.

Around 7:51 a.m., the territory recorded a peak of 104.42 megawatts, according to a news release from Yukon Energy.

The new record is about a half a megawatt higher than the previous record of 103.84 megawatts recorded on Jan. 14, 2020.

While in general, over 90 per cent of the electricity generated in Yukon comes from renewable resources each year, during periods of high electricity use each winter, Yukon Energy has to use its hydro, liquefied natural gas and diesel resources to generate the electricity, the release says.

But when it comes to setting records, Andrew Hall, CEO of Yukon Energy, says it's not that unusual.

"Typically, during the winter, when the weather is cold, demand for electricity in the Yukon reaches its maximum. And that's because folks use more electricity for heating their homes, for cooking meals, there's more lighting demand, because the days are shorter," he said.

"It usually happens either in December or sometimes in January, when we get a cold snap."

He said generally over the years, electricity demand has grown.

"We get new home construction, construction of new apartment buildings. And typically, those new homes are all heated by electricity, maybe not all of them but the majority," Hall said.

Efforts to curb climate change add to electricity demand

There are also other reasons, ones that are "in the name of climate change," Hall added.

That includes people trying to limit fossil fuel heating by swapping to electric heating. And, he said some Yukoners are switching to electric vehicles.

"Over time, those two new demands, in the name of climate change, will also contribute to growing demand for electricity," he said.

While Yukon did reach this new all time high, Hall said the territory still hadn't hit the maximum capacity for the week, which was 118 megawatts.

Paul Tukker/CBC
Paul Tukker/CBC

Tips to curve demand

"When we plan our system, we actually plan for a scenario where we actually lose our largest hydro generating facility," Hall said.

"We had plenty of generation available so it wasn't an emergency situation, it was more just an observation that hey, our peaks are growing."

He also said it was an opportunity to reach out to customers on ways to curve their demand for electricity around peak times, which is typically between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.

For example, he said, people should consider running major appliances, like dishwashers, during non-peak hours, such as in the afternoon rather than in the morning or evening.

During winter peaks, people can also use a block heater timer on vehicles and turn down the thermostat by one or two degrees.

'We plan for each winter'

Hall said Yukon Energy is working to increase its peak output, including working on a large grid scale battery to be installed in Whitehorse.

When it comes to any added load from people working from home due to COVID-19, Hall said they haven't noticed any identifiable increase there.

"Presumably, if someone's working from home, you know, their computer is at home, and they're not using the computer at the office," he said.

He said there shouldn't be any concern for maxing out the capacity of electricity demand as Yukon moves into the colder winter months, since those days are forecast for.

"This number of 104 megawatts wasn't unexpected," he said, adding how much electricity is needed depends on the weather too.

"We plan for each winter."

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