New power plants proposed for Kugaaruk and Chesterfield Inlet
Aging generators in both communities past expected lifespans
Qulliq Energy Corp., Nunavut’s electricity provider, wants to build new diesel-fired power plants in Kugaaruk and Chesterfield Inlet to replace aging electricity generators that are more than 40 years old.
Kugaaruk senior administrative officer Emiliano Qirngnuq says he’s “very excited” about the proposed new power plant for his community.
Both of the new power plants will be diesel-run but will have the ability to integrate renewable energy, according to QEC’s proposals.
The current power plant in Kugaaruk is 47 years old, while Chesterfield Inlet’s is 46 years old. Both generators had expected lifespans of 40 years when they were built.
The new power plants are expected to be working by 2026 at the earliest.
A better-functioning power plant will be welcome in Kugaaruk, as its current power source cuts out whenever there is a winter storm, Qirngnuq said.
Chesterfield Inlet’s senior administrative officer John Ivey, said it may be a challenge to secure enough gravel for the foundation of the new power plant, but everyone in the community wants to see it built.
In both communities, the existing power plant equipment is deteriorating and the fuel tanks do not meet federal regulations.
“The engineering from 50 years ago is not as in tune with the challenges of the North as it is today,” said Bill Nippard, QEC’s director of operations.
The Kugaaruk power plant will cost approximately $39 million while the Chesterfield Inlet one will cost approximately $35 million. Each power plant will get $22 million from the Arctic Energy Fund, a federal government program.
But the rest of the cost will be on the customers. For Kugaaruk that will be approximately $16.4 million and for Chesterfield Inlet that will be approximately $12.5 million.
It remains to be seen how ratepayers will absorb these costs, but Nippard said the Arctic Energy Fund makes the projects less expensive than they would otherwise have been.
Construction of the two power plants will create jobs in both communities for one to two years, Nippard said, but at this point it wasn’t clear how many.
New diesel-fired power plants present a challenge, with climate change forcing the entire globe to shift to more renewable energy sources. The federal government has pledged to reduce diesel dependency in the North and get the country to net-zero emissions by 2050. Yet the new power plants are proposed to function on diesel for another 40 years.
Nippard said that is why the new power plants will be able to better integrate with renewable energy like solar and wind power.
Unlike the old power plants, the new ones will have the technology to incorporate renewable energy into the distribution system that supplies power to a community, he said.
The reality is that energy needs to be safe, reliable and cost effective, but only diesel meets those requirements currently in Nunavut, Nippard said.
The proposals for both power plants are both currently being reviewed by the Utility Rates Review Board. Nunavummiut are able to send written submission on the proposals to this independent board by Feb. 25.