A three-year, $1 million study in the Yukon, Canada will investigate how a changing climate could impact future hydropower generation. Yukon College’s Northern Climate ExChange has partnered with Yukon Energy and a graduate school at the University of Quebec to study the Mayo and Aishihik rivers, both of which have hydro facilities on them. The study is due to be completed in 2019.
Andrew Hall, President and CEO of Yukon Energy, said: “There was a concern around what climate change could mean for our hydro potential,” noting that about 98 per cent of the territory’s electricity comes from hydropower. He said: “If the studies were to conclude that we were seeing major changes in our hydro resources, we could accommodate or account for those.”
Researchers will look at how changes in temperature, snow, rain, and permafrost may impact each river in the future. Brian Horton, Project Coordinator with Northern Climate ExChange, said computer modelling will be used to understand rivers and the timing of when water will arrive in lakes and rivers. He said that the University of Quebec brings that technical expertise to the table. He said: “Where we know that there are big gaps in past observations, we’ll be going out to collect new weather information, and merge that all together in the computer modelling environment.”
The project is primarily taking place on the traditional territory of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun and Champagne Aisihik First Nation. Horton said that local input will be a component of the study.
A previous study, looking at the amount of snow, rain, and glacier melt contributing to the flow of the Yukon River, found that river flows are increasing, particularly in the autumn and winter.