Overview of Electricity Sector

Like Yukon, most communities in the Northwest Territories (NWT) rely on thermal generation, predominantly diesel; however, the most populated areas in the south, like Yellowknife, are served by hydropower [i]. To reduce dependence on diesel, the NWT is pursuing the integration of more renewable resources like wind and solar power. It hosts the largest wind farm in northern Canada as well as numerous small-scale solar installations. Additionally, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) commissioned a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant in Inuvik with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions and electricity rates by displacing diesel consumption.

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Two multi-community grids located along the Great Slave Lake serve the bulk of the population with hydropower. The lack of connectivity between NWT’s two grids and the absence of a link with the continental grid leads makes it challenging to meet energy demand efficiently and cost-effectively [ii]. Both grid systems produce the most electricity when water levels are high in the summer but when load demand is at its lowest. Conversely, during winter months when the population draws the most power, the water levels are low.  The NTPC reports that this mismatch results in roughly 30 to 50% of “spilled” water every year [iii].

In December 2013, the NWT government introduced the Northwest Territories Energy Action Plan to address the challenges posed by transmission constraints, high energy costs. and reliance on non-renewable sources. Some of its proposals include: connecting both NWT’s multi-community grid systems, as well as building transmission out to the continental grid, most likely via Saskatchewan. It also proposes linking mining operations, significant consumers of electricity in the North, to the hydro system so as to reduce their reliance on diesel, thus overall operating costs. Furthermore, the Energy Action Plan encourages the development of renewable resources across the territory, especially solar, wind and biomass cogeneration.

 

[i] Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, 2014. Powering Canada’s Territories. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/412/enev/rep/rep14jun15-e.pdf

[ii] National Energy Board, 2011. Energy Use in Canada’s North: An Overview of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut – Energy Facts, https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/nrg/ntgrtd/mrkt/archive/2011nrgsncndnrthfct/nrgsncndnrthfct-eng.html

[iii] Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, 2014. Powering Canada’s Territories. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/412/enev/rep/rep14jun15-e.pdf

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