Yukon Energy to improve communications in the event of another cryogenic power outage
Yukon Energy held another briefing with officials Wednesday morning about a series of power outages during a cold snap in December — and the focus was more on communications than the cause of the outages.
It follows a similar briefing in January, a month after a series of -40C temperatures contributed to power outages in Dawson City, Pelly Crossing and Whitehorse.
At the time, Andrew Hall, CEO of Yukon Energy, was accompanied by representatives from the City of Whitehorse, ATCO Electric and the Yukon’s Emergency Measures Organization (EMO).
On Wednesday, Hall spoke again alongside representatives of the same organizations in a briefing at Whitehorse City Hall. No new information was submitted.
They reinforced the point that communication needs to be faster when there are outages during a deep freeze.
“The old protocol we operated under was that we would only inform [Yukon Emergency Measures Organization] after four hours, and that’s based on the rates at which a typical home begins to cool down,” said Andrew Hall, CEO of Yukon Energy.
“One of the learnings is that it’s not reasonable for us to wait that long, even though it would be technically correct… after a few hours we’ll at least let them know there’s an outage.”
The company said equipment failure was responsible for the outages at Pelly and Dawson, while a power surge was the cause of outages at Whitehorse.
According to Hall, these surges are partly due to increased construction activity in Whitehorse. That stresses the system. He says Yukon Energy and ATCO need to monitor how much construction takes place in the city each year.
To that end, the utilities will meet annually with the city to review the plans. This allows companies to estimate how the load will change throughout the year, allowing them to better anticipate energy needs during a cold snap.
Another change is that the EMO will serve as a focal point between communities and ATCO Electric and Yukon Energy, says Whitehorse Fire Chief Jason Everett.
Cutting out multiple contacts makes the process more efficient. This allows EMO to contact community emergency management teams when they need to be activated.
In December, EMO was ready to provide support but was not asked to provide that support as the outages were short-lived.
“Often these things happen after hours, leaving offices running at minimal levels,” says Greg Blackjack, director of EMO. “Reducing the number of employees our supply partners need to upgrade is just one way we can free them up to do their primary job.”
Hall says there’s no telling if outages will become more or less common in the coming winters. He says the goal is to be prepared when they happen.