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Iqaluit faces risk of black-outs due to aging energy plant

April 30, 2012

A decade ago, Qulliq Energy, a crown-owned utility, completed a study on modernizing and expanding its main diesel generating facility in Iqaluit. Yet the work has only now just started and black-outs have occurred.

Qulliq Energy operates a diesel-fuelled thermal power station in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Currently, four gensets are installed, with an installed capacity of 12.5 MW. Over the next number of years, the demand for power in the community increased sufficiently to warrant major upgrades to facilities and renovations to the existing building and surroundings. A detailed engineering plant for a new plant was completed in 2002. The City of Iqaluit has experienced significant load growth during the past 10 years, largely driven by the creation of Nunavut as a territory and Iqaluit’s designation as the Territory’s capital city. A study conducted by the City of Iqaluit projects that the City’s population will grow to 13,000 by the year 2030 and an additional 1,400 housing units to be built within the same time period.

Before a major outage in 2011, the Iqaluit system currently had a reliability of 99.833% with an average of 14 outages per year 28 with an average of 879 outage minutes per year (15 hours) over last three fiscal years. In Aug-11 outages began in Iqaluit when the power plant’s main generator broke down at the same time that another generator had been taken offline for maintenance. The engine’s turbo system suffered a malfunction of a major component that’s not easily replaced.The two remaining generators can only produce 5.2 megawatts of the 7.5 megawatts Iqaluit needs to fully function during the summer. The City endured 2 days worth of rolling black-outs until the problem was rectified.

In Nov-10 Qulliq Energy applied to its regulator to proceed with the upgrade of the Iqaluit main power station. Under the plan the renovations would be completed in 2012 with new gen sets being cut-over in 2012-2013. The upgrade and increase in the generating capacity of Iqaluit’s main power plant is expected to be completed within a three year period, once approved. The estimated cost of the project is $29.6 million. The 2011/12 capital expenditure for this project was approved by the Corporation’s Board of Directors in October 2010 and work began late in 2011.

Qulliq is also working on replacing its 5 kilovolt electrical lines with modern 25 kilovolt capacity lines. Both projects will increase the efficiency of electrical energy production in Iqaluit.


Qulliq faces daunting problems keeping its aging diesel plants operational in all its communities. Consumers face the highest rates in Canada, by far, with residential rates starting at $0.52 per kilowatt hour and going up to over $1.02.