North

Feds inject funds into Yukon biomass, home heating projects

The federal government is putting $5.4 million into cutting Yukon's greenhouse gas emissions. The money is going toward biomass and home heating projects, among others.

First Nations, Yukon Conservation Society, territorial government share $5.4M

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell holds up a brick used for electric thermal storage, while flanked by Kluane First Nation Chief Bob Dickson, right, Yukon energy minister Ranj Pillai, rear, and Yukon Conservation Society executive director Coral Voss, left. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

The federal government is rolling out more money aimed at cutting Yukon's greenhouse gas emissions.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell announced $5.4 million for five projects at a news conference in Whitehorse. They include biomass district heating systems for the Carcross/Tagish First Nation ($2.1 million) and the Teslin Tlingit Council ($800,000).

A home heating pilot project in Whitehorse, spearheaded by the Yukon Conservation Society, will get $1.6 million.

The electric thermal storage project will recruit up to 40 homes to take part. Participating households will have special furnaces installed that use electric power during periods of low electrical demand to heat up bricks that are used to heat homes. The aim is to reduce strain on the hydroelectric system and reduce the need to run diesel or natural gas generators.

Project manager Eric Labrecque said the goal of the pilot project is to determine whether thermal storage is feasible for more widespread use in the territory. He said it's already used in Alaska and Nova Scotia.

One of the unknowns for Yukon is whether the local power lines that connect homes to the grid can handle the extra load.

"It's a much higher electrical demand," he said. "There's infrastructure changes that may be necessary there. So we're looking at that."

Biomass supports traditional economy, chief says

The funding also includes $346,000 for the Kluane First Nation to develop a forest management plan. The project will combine satellite imagery and traditional knowledge to build an inventory of forestry assets.

Chief Bob Dickson says it will help ensure a steady supply of fuel for the community's existing biomass heating system and provide other economic spinoffs.

"There have been many benefits to biomass systems, including support for a traditional economy," Dickson said. "People can get out and foster their traditional use of the land which provides funding for their families and also reduces fire hazards within our community."

The Yukon government will get $574,000 to address factors that slow down the development of energy projects in First Nations.

Ranj Pillai, Yukon's minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, said the aim is to ensure First Nation members can get jobs with clean energy projects.

"[First] Nations want to ensure that the people that are supporting those particular pieces of infrastructure are from their community, that they're not bringing people in, depending on what they have available and what the interests are," Pillai said.

The money comes from a $220-million federal fund for projects aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption in rural communities.

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