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City of fuel hogs

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 20/05) - Yellowknifers spend massive amounts of money gassing up their trucks and heating their homes.

A study conducted on the city's behalf by Terriplan Consultants found residents spent almost $40 million for heat last year, and another $22 million at the gas pump.

NNSL photo

Yellowknife energy consumption

Total energy expenditures (2004): about $113 million = 144 million litres of fuel that produces 359,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions

Residential use:

  • $39,595,000 (mostly for fuel oil) = 35% of total
  • Commercial/industrial use:

  • $34,595,000 = 30% of total
  • Municipal services:

    $1,895,000 = 2% of total

    Institutional (excluding city):

  • $14,459,700 = 13% of total
  • Transportation (gas & diesel):

  • $22,373,000 = 20% of total

  • Overall, Yellowknife - with its population of just more than 19,000 - consumed about $113 million worth of energy in 2004, the largest chunk spent at home.

    The news came at a public session held Tuesday by the city's community energy planning committee. The group was formed in March to recommend ways Yellowknife can reduce energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    Terriplan consultant Rob Marshall said while there isn't much data to compare Yellowknife with other jurisdictions, he's certain energy consumption is higher than the national average.

    The federal government estimates the national average for greenhouse gas emissions is five tonnes a person annually. Marshall said the Yellowknife average is seven tonnes.

    "Those numbers seem ridiculously high, but when you think about it, it's not that much different from any other Northern jurisdiction," said Marshall.

    "You have a heating season that's nine months long."

    Yellowknife accounts for about 20 per cent of the 1,750 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases produced in the NWT every year, Marshall said.

    If you take out emissions from mines, Yellowknifers are responsible for 45 per cent of greenhouse gases - roughly the percentage of NWT residents who live in Yellowknife.

    Nonetheless, we can clearly do better, said Andrew Robinson, a co-ordinator with the Arctic Energy Alliance.

    "Gas guzzling is a culture up here," said Robinson.

    It's not just big trucks that drive up Yellowknife's energy demands, he said, but even bigger houses.

    Robinson said many homes are still being built below government-approved R2000 standards. That standard calls for more energy-efficient homes with more insulation and triple-pane windows.

    "All the new houses in Niven Lake, all the new trailers going in, they're all substandard," said Robinson.

    "The demand for housing is so high that people will buy anything. They'll buy cheaper stuff now, and then cry about their energy bills later, but it's too late."

    He said one solution might be a city bylaw that imposes tougher building standards or provisions like one adopted for a subdivision in Iqaluit where houses face southward to take advantage of energy coming from the sun.

    Such a bylaw may come under consideration.

    "The point is we want people to think about how they use energy," said city public works director Greg Kehoe.

    "We would love people to take the bus more often as opposed to driving their cars."

    One small step the city has taken toward saving on electricity costs was the installation of an LED traffic light at Kam Lake Road and Woolgar Avenue.

    The light uses one-tenth the energy used by a regular traffic light. Kehoe said the city has asked the territorial government for $110,000 to buy more.

    Right now, the city is gathering more ideas on how to save energy from residents. Kehoe encourages people to give him a call.

    One idea that resident Karen Hamre liked after attending last week's public forum was the possibility of using warmth from underground shafts at Con Mine to help heat city water pipes.

    "To me that's the kind of thing we should be paying attention to," said Hamre.