The City of Yellowknife’s Biomass District Energy System is the 2018 winner in the energy category of the Federation of Canadian Municpalities’ Sustainable Communities Awards.

Throughout Northern Canada, heating buildings is both essential and expensive. The region relies on costly fossil fuels that contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To address these issues for their community, the City of Yellowknife, NT, came up with an innovative solution: a biomass district energy system, shared by several buildings and fuelled by wood pellets. This heating system is expected to reduce GHGs by 829 tonnes a year, and save the City up to $160,000 annually.

Heating homes and buildings in Yellowknife accounts for more than 70 per cent of the community’s energy consumption. The heating oil the city relied on is GHG intensive, and shipped over long distances. So, they turned to biomass energy as a renewable energy source that is less polluting, and that has potential to be sourced locally.
Yellowknife’s district energy system heats a group of five municipal buildings that previously consumed about 367,000 litres of heating oil a year. The switch to biomass is expected to lower GHGs by 829 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) a year, which is almost half of the City’s GHG reduction target, and increase their corporate renewable energy use by 10 per cent. The City expects to see direct cost savings between $140,000 and $160,000 a year, and additional maintenance and operations savings are also expected.

Yellowknife’s district energy system is an inspiration to other Northern communities looking for viable alternative energy sources. In fact, neighbouring building owners have already approached the City to discuss the benefits and challenges of implementing similar systems. The project will support a local wood pellet plant that is currently being developed, which will bring economic benefits to the region once it is up and running.

FCM’s Sustainable Communities Awards recognize and celebrate sustainability leaders and trailblazers in municipalities of all sizes across Canada.