As funding dries up, Alaska seeks new way to pay for rural power
June 29, 2018 05:23 am by JAMES BROOKS
Alaskans in 170 communities may have a more expensive power bill as a result.
With state funding drying up, the Alaska Energy Authority is considering a major change
to the way it supports rural power projects, and customers are likely to pay more as a result.
In a unanimous vote Thursday, the AEA’s board of directors voted to begin drafting new rules for a 19-year-old program that has sent millions to small power grids across the state.
The Rural Power System Upgrade program distributed $192 million in grants between 2001 and 2015, but funding for the effort has been slashed by the Alaska Legislature and the federal Denali Commission, which is funded by Congress and charged with supporting rural development.
The tentative solution: Transforming the program into a system of matching grants and state-backed loans. That switch means small communities will now be asked to (at least partially) pay for something they now receive for free. The costs will be passed to customers.
“I’m hoping there won’t be too many people who want to burn the house down when we go out with this regulation,” Katie Conway, AEA’s government relations specialist, said during Thursday’s board meeting. More
State wants public input on how to spend Volkswagen settlement money
By Elizabeth Jenkins, Alaska's Energy Desk
The state wants feedback on how to allocate millions of dollars of settlement money from the car company Volkswagen.
Between 2009 and 2016, the company sold vehicles that were equipped with so-called “defeat devices,” which illegally masked the cars’ actual pollution during emissions tests.
Alaska will receive $8 million as part of Volkswagen’s settlement with a federal agency. Last year, the governor appointed the Alaska Energy Authority to help manage the funds.
Spokesperson Katie Conway said the public has until July 1 to weigh in.
“I think the highlight here is that we’ve been hearing about this case for a really long time, and now it’s Alaska’s opportunity to figure out the best use of the funding that we get as a state for what Volkswagen did,” Conway said.
The legal settlement defined the type of projects that could receive funding, including investments in electric vehicle infrastructure or upgrades to diesel-powered transportation, like ferries and buses. The energy authority wants public input on what to prioritize.
Based on those comments, the agency hopes to finalize a plan this summer and start accepting proposals by August.
Awards could be announced later this fall. More
Expansion of Bradley Lake hydro facility gets underway
Work on a $46 million project to expand the state’s largest hydroelectric facility is set to begin Thursday. The Battle Creek Project as it’s known will increase the Bradley Lake hydro facility’s production by about 10 percent.
The facility, which sits about 30 miles northeast of Homer at the head of Kachemak Bay, supplies wholesale power to six electric utilities throughout the Rail Belt.
The project will divert glacial runoff via a 1.7-mile-long pipeline to the Bradley Lake Dam. Alaska Energy Authority manages the state-owned facility. AEA spokesperson Katie Conway said the project will produce an additional 37,000 megawatt hours per year.
“If you use an average consumption of about 600 kilowatt hours per month, per household, [it] would be enough power for a community roughly the size of the City of Homer for a year,” Conway explained.
The two-year project does require a road to be built along the pipeline. Conway said crews will begin blasting away rock along the route this week. AEA expects the road to be completed in October.
“This construction season is about building the road. Next year, a water line goes in and the project is to be completed in about August of 2020,” Conway said. More
The debate continues
House Energy hears further testimony on reform of Railbelt electrical system
Alan Bailey - Petroleum News April 15, 2018
On April 5 the House Special Committee on Energy heard further testimony on issues surrounding efforts to adopt a more unified approach to the management and operation of the electricity supply system that serves consumers in the Alaska Railbelt. As reported previously in Petroleum News, the committee is considering House Bill 382, introduced by committee chair Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, that would mandate the formation of a Railbelt Electrical System Authority for overseeing the system.
Currently the fragmented management of the system, with six independent utilities owning and operating different sectors, leads to inefficiencies in the manner in which the system operates. The belief is that, through a more unified management approach under some form of unified system operator, the cost of electricity for consumers could be reduced without sacrificing supply reliability. Proponents of renewable energy also say that the balkanized system management acts as an obstacle to the viable implementation of renewable energy generation.
The authority proposed in HB 382 would steer the system in the direction of implementing economic dispatch across the Railbelt, an arrangement in which maximum use would continuously be made of the most efficient power generation facilities. The authority would also establish a universal transmission tariff and nondiscriminatory access to the transmission system. More
Energy stakeholders share ideas and information at Alaska Rural Energy Conference
By Katie Luper | Posted: Tue 7:38 PM, Apr 10, 2018
FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Governor Bill Walker spoke at the Alaska Rural Energy Conference this morning at the Westmark, as well as City Mayor Jim Matherly and Borough Mayor Karl Kassel.
Energy stakeholders from around the state came to share ideas and information about new technologies and energy needs for Alaska's remote communities.
Katie Luper Reports.
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: This year's Rural Energy Conference is built around 'innovation, inspiration and opportunity.'
They want to build a better future for today's young people.
When the energy comity for the conference thought about their theme, they decided to get help from students in Alaska.
Katie Conway; Alaska Energy Authority>>: "We decided to put out a call to students to answer a question, 'What do you want your community's energy system to look like when you're 50 years old?' And what they ended up producing was an incredible vision of what Alaska's energy future can look like."
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: All of the drawings incorporated themes of renewable energies, using local resources and eliminating dependence on fossil fuels. From that, organizers based the three day forum on environmental sustainability, economic development and energy security.
Karl Kassel; FNSB Mayor>>: "Well energy is one of the most important topics in our community, both from a cost perspective and an environmental perspective. And so looking at all the opportunities we have in front of us is very important. Fairbanks is really a hot bed of innovation and development because of our, not only our high costs but our high use of energy in our cold climate. And so we're really a focal point at look at different solutions to energy issues here in Fairbanks."
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: Mayor Kassel and other energy stakeholders heard from experts. It's not too late to join the conference to learn about energy technology and innovation.
Karl Kassel; FNSB Mayor>>: "People should definitely be here and understand what opportunities are available and who in Fairbanks is working on these different projects. It'll save them money and open a lot of doors and improve our communities all across Alaska."
Katie Luper; Reporting>>: Reporting from the Alaska Rural Energy Conference, I'm Katie Luper.
For video go here:
HEA takes a look at electric vehicles
Posted May 6, 2018 By BEN BOETTGER Peninsula Clarion
Of the attendees who drove from the central Kenai Peninsula to Homer for Homer Electric Association’s annual member meeting on Thursday, at least two made the trip in electric cars.
HEA information service analyst Joe Halstead was behind the wheel of the cooperative’s 2018 Chevrolet Volt, which HEA recently purchased as a practical test of how electric vehicles perform in local conditions.
“We’re going to use data from this car, so we can say ‘this is what we like, this is what we don’t like, this is what it’s costing us,’ things like that,” Halstead said.
Kenai surgeon Henry Krull also drove his Tesla electric car to Homer for HEA members to see alongside the cooperative-owned Volt. The owners of an electric BWM also displayed their vehicle at the meeting.
Electric vehicles are becoming popular in Southeast Alaska communities like Juneau. The southeast has an abundance of cheap hydro-electricity and relatively short road distances, but electric drivers on the Kenai Peninsula are in a different environment, both in geography and electricity costs. More
‘A Survival Issue’: Rural Communities Using More Renewable Energy, Less Costly Diesel
by Gary Hennigh, King Cove, Alaska
Editor's Note: This article is a follow-up to the 2015 article "Doubling Down on Small-Scale Hydro - Government that Works"
No matter where you are as you read this, or what the view is out your window, chances are good that water matters to you. Water irrigates, water transports, water cools us and heats us and sometimes, it washes away the bad parts of a day. It comprises 60 percent(1) of the human body and from its depths, more than 3.5 billion people around the world are fed.(2) And in King Cove, Alaska, where I’ve had the privilege of being City Administrator for almost 30 years, if all goes as we have dreamed it, planned for it and gone deeply into debt over it, water will provide the light by which our city’s grandchildren will read their children to sleep. And, best of all, it will do so at a fraction of the cost and diesel exhaust that was otherwise guaranteed to be their future.
Dug in between volcanic mountains and the sea, the land holds in reverence the bones of King Cove’s Aleut ancestors; the indigenous Alaskan natives that have a 4,000-year-old(3) history with this place. If you have Native Americans among your constituencies, then you know that they bring a responsibility for their heritage to every meeting at which decisions about the future will be made. It may also sound familiar that they wear their survival skills as a second skin, so in tune are they to the truth that the future is only ever claimed by the risk-takers, in partnership with those who persevere and possess an ability to learn from their mistakes.
King Cove (pop. 900.) is a place that could be used to illustrate the dictionary meaning of rural, rugged, wind-swept and fog-shrouded. Its very geography demands a respect for the forces of nature and yet that same geography is paying big dividends to the residents, and with some foresight and upkeep, will continue to do so for decades to come. As one of the largest Aleut communities in Alaska, it is not surprising that its history is measured in millennia. As one of the few communities that enjoys 75 percent of its electricity from a renewable source, it is also likely to be here millennia from now. More
Technology helping small communities cut high energy costs, conference organizer says
About 400 people from around Alaska and elsewhere converged on the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conference Center this week to talk about how residents of the state’s rural and remote communities can reduce high energy costs during the 20th Rural Energy Conference.
Organizers say turnout for this year’s conference is good and interest is keen in finding solutions to the growing problem of sky-high energy costs in Alaskan communities located far off the grid.
Gwen Holdmann is the director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at UAF, which helps the Alaska Energy Authority organize the biennial conference.
“What this conference is really about is it’s about bringing people together to share experiences, share stories on what works, what doesn’t work, what direction they’re going,” Holdmann said. More