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NNSL photo/graphic

Across the territory, power plants are getting old and need to be replaced. The Iqaluit plant is 47 years old. Built in 1964, it is getting a much needed facelift but there isn't enough money to replace all the others. - Emily Ridlington/NNSL photo

Replacing aging power plants costly: Qulliq

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 7, 2011


With well over half the territory's power plants at or near the end of their design life, the Qulliq Energy Corporation says they need to be replaced but no one knows where the money will come from to rebuild or replace them.

Age of power plants based on construction date

Qikiqtaaluk (Average age - 33 years )

  • Arctic Bay - 1974 - 37 years
  • Cape Dorset - 1964 with additions in 1973 and 1992 - 47 years
  • Clyde River - 1999 - 12 years
  • Grise Fiord - 1963 - 48 years
  • Hall Beach - 1974 with addition in 1993 - 37 years
  • Iglulik - 1974 with addition in 2005 - 37 years
  • Iqaluit - 1964 - 47 years
  • Kimmirut - 1992 - 19 years
  • Pangnirtung - 1971 - 40 years
  • Pond Inlet - 1992 - 19 years
  • Qikiqtarjuaq - 1963 with additions in 1975 and 1986 - 48 years
  • Resolute Bay - 1971 - 40 years
  • Sanikiluaq - 2001 - 10 years

Kivalliq (Average age - 25 years)

  • Arviat - 1971 with addition in 1979 - 40 years
  • Baker Lake - 2003 - 8 years
  • Chesterfield Inlet - 1975 - 36 years
  • Coral Harbour - 1988 - 23 years
  • Rankin Inlet - 1973 with additions in 1986 and 1993 - 38 years
  • Repulse Bay - 2000 - 11 years
  • Whale Cove - 1991 - 20 years

Kitikmeot (Average age - 39 years )

  • Cambridge Bay - 1967 with addition in 1970 - 44 years
  • Gjoa Haven - 1977 - 34 years
  • Kugluktuk - 1968 with addition in 1989 - 43 years
  • Kugaaruk - 1974 - 37 years
  • Taloyoak - 1972 with additions in 1986 and 1993 - 39 years

"We are putting Band-Aids when we can but we've reached the breaking point and they can no longer just be bandaged," said Peter Mackey, president and CEO of Qulliq on Jan. 7.

Mackey has shared this message with those who have gone to the hearings this month organized by the Utility Rate Review Council of Nunavut.

Qulliq operates 27 diesel generation power plants in 25 communities serving approximately 11,000 customers. Qulliq used approximately 45 million litres of diesel fuel in 2009-2010, costing $39 million. This produced 161 giga-watts of power per hour.

Mackey said 17 out of 25, or 68 per cent, of the plants are near or at the end of their design life.

"Power plants are typically designed for a 40-year life and they were never designed for the growth we saw with decentralized governments," Mackey said.

The oldest power plants in Nunavut are the 48-year-old facilities in Qikiqtarjuaq and Grise Fiord. Not far behind in age are the plants in Cape Dorset and Taloyoak, which are 47 and 39 years old, respectively.

Since the creation of Nunavut in 1999, only one power plant has been constructed in Baker Lake at the cost of more than $5 million.

Mackey said to build a new plant in Sanikiluaq 12 years ago at Nunavut's inception would have cost $3.5 million. Now with the increase in cost and advancements in technology the same plant would come in with a price tag of around $10 to $12 million.

Qulliq is projecting its budget for its five-year capital plan to be $145 million and its 10-year capital plan to be $250 million.

"We are trying to maintain the status quo in the plants," he said.

This leaves some customers wondering if the rate hike of 19.3 per cent Qulliq is proposing has anything to do with the corporation needing more money to replace the plants.

This past November, Qulliq announced the cost for the Iqaluit upgrade was going to be $29.6 million and would provide the city with enough power until 2032. A number of systems will be replaced.

According to the city, population growth is expected to reach 13,000 people by 2030.

This increase in a capacity and demand is not only being felt in the capital. Mackey said the research centre in Cambridge Bay, the building of new schools, health centres and the prison in Rankin will also strain the existing infrastructure.

People like Harry Flaherty, president of the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation said the corporation should turn to alternative energy sources now before it is too late.

"To me it would be critical to pursue because every year we wait, you're asking for an increase in operation costs," he said.

Mackey said while alternative energy options such as hydro and wind are being explored, it would take 80 to 100 years to pay back how much it would cost to build such facilities.

At an unrelated press conference in Iqaluit on Jan. 14, reporters pressed MP Leona Aglukkaq to see if the federal government would be willing to chip in to help the cause.

"Our government is committed to working with other levels of government and we recognize infrastructure overall is a continuing need," she said.

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