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Yukon pilot project aims to shift energy demand away from peak times, reduce diesel use

The Yukon Conservation Society plans to have electric thermal storage units installed in 40 homes in Whitehorse.

Yukon Conservation Society plans to install electric thermal storage units in 40 homes

Eric Labrecque is the project manager for the Yukon Conservation Society. (Submitted by Eric Labrecque)

The Yukon Conservation Society (YCS) is starting a pilot project aimed at shifting demands on the Yukon Energy grid away from the busiest times of the day.

The society plans to have electric thermal storage (ETS) units, in the form of both furnaces and space heaters, installed in 40 homes in Whitehorse by the end of this summer.

"The main driver would be reducing diesel usage," said Eric Labreque, project manager with YCS. "These electric thermal storage units work by heating up a bunch of bricks overnight and then using that heat to warm the house during the day."

An example of an electric thermal storage Ecombi room heater. (Submitted by Coldbrook Electric Supply)

When Yukon Energy's hydroelectric dam in Whitehorse is operating at capacity, it meets remaining demand with thermal energy in the form of both LNG and diesel. The energy corporation said during periods of peak demand, which typically occur during the day, diesel accounts for about about 25 per cent of its power generation and LNG accounts for about 12 per cent.

Stephanie Cunha with Yukon Energy said by reducing peaks in demand, ETS units could reduce the amount of diesel needed at that point in time.

But she notes owners of the units will not see reductions in their power bills. That's because the price of energy in the Yukon is the same regardless of the time of day it's used.

Andrew Hall, president of Yukon Energy, said the company has considered differential pricing — different rates at different times of the day —  in the past, but he said it can be both complicated and controversial.

"Some people get concerned about equity in the sense that it's pretty difficult to change some behaviours."

Hall said as the demand on Yukon Energy's grid increases, it will look at other ways to encourage people to use energy during non-peak periods.

Financial incentive

Labrecque said although participants in the YCS pilot project won't save on their energy bills, there's still a financial incentive to signing up, particularly for people who already need a furnace replacement.

An example of a forced-air electric thermal storage furnace. (Submitted by Steffes, LLC)

He said the program will cover a portion of the cost of buying the units, which start at about $1,000 for a space heater to about $10,000 for a full furnace. It will also cover part of the installation costs. Labrecque said the exact amounts are still being worked out.   

The Yukon initiative follows in the footsteps of projects in other jurisdictions, including Summerside, P.E.I., which uses ETS units to store energy from a nearby wind farm.

Bobby Dunn with the City of Summerside says the project has seen "tremendous" success.

"We've got about 65 furnaces around the city, 185 space heaters and close to 170 water heaters."

The Yukon Conservation Society will run a two-year pilot project to test the technology in the territory. At that point, Labrecque said it may look into expanding the program.

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