What others say: House Bill 382 putting healthy pressure on Railbelt utility groups
Posted April 6, 2018 12:33 pm
By Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial
House Bill 382 would create a Railbelt Electrical System Authority to oversee region wide planning of energy generation and transmission projects. It would create a unified transmission and generation system and establish open access protocols for this system. This proposed authority would also perform what is called merit-ordered economic dispatch, which is system of using the cheapest and most-efficient power generation source, followed by the second-cheapest and efficient power generator, and so on.
Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, introduced the bill. The session clock is ticking and there are more pressing issues to be dealt with such as the budget, so the bill might not get much traction at this point.
Why should Alaskans care about the bill? Because establishing a Railbelt Electrical System Authority could dramatically reduce the rates for electricity consumers along the Railbelt.
As Janet Reiser, the director of the Alaska Energy Authority, explained during a House Energy Committee meeting Thursday, the six Railbelt utilities are each trying to offer the best rates to their own customers — and to no other customers along the Railbelt — yet they all share the same infrastructure. This is not an ideal situation for such a small population of consumers.
According to a 2015 Regulatory Commission of Alaska letter to the Legislature, “Concerns about the fragmented, Balkanized and often contentious Railbelt utilities have been raised numerous times over the past 40 years. Several efforts have been made to reform and reorganize the Railbelt electrical system, but none have succeeded.” More
The Cost of Cold: Staying warm near Fairbanks
By Ravenna Koenig, Alaska's Energy Desk
Interior Alaska is known for extreme cold in the winter. But because Fairbanks doesn’t have easy access to natural gas, most people use pricey fuel oil to heat their homes. And as a result, many families turn to a cheaper local resource to bring down their heating bills: wood. But wood contributes to an air quality problem that has Fairbanks in trouble with federal regulators.
Even with the downsides, one family says that wood is still their best option.
Jeremy Eberhardt and Ember Kalama live about 10 miles outside of Fairbanks with their four kids.
Kalama moved here from Hawaii when she was in her teens, but Eberhardt was born and raised here. He calls 20 below “T-shirt weather.” And he says burning wood for fuel is about more than just saving money; the whole process of chopping, drying, and hauling it is part of his Alaskan upbringing and something he’s teaching his kids.
“I don’t know what the kids think, but I think it’s a pretty good activity,” Eberhardt said. “It’s something that you kind of hand down… I did it with my parents and… my grandfather. And… I guess I’m passing the torch as you would say to them.”
But money is definitely part of it too. Kalama works in the plumbing industry, and Eberhardt is a mechanic. They say their income varies year to year, and it would take a real bite out of their budget if they were paying for heating fuel.
They did heat their home that way several years ago and Eberhardt says it cost them at least $700 a month. More
$15 million from feds a ‘dream come true’ as Alaska village plans relocation
The head of the Denali Commission said the new federal spending bill includes $15 million that will probably all go to help a climate-imperiled village in Alaska move to a new location.
The money won't cover all of Newtok's effort to rebuild on high ground 9 miles away at Mertarvik, where a handful of houses have already been built, officials said Friday. But it will be the largest shot of cash ever provided for a relocation effort that began more than 20 years ago, and could open the door for more federal funding."This literally changes peoples lives right here," said Romy Cadiente, tribal relocation coordinator for Newtok Village Council. "The eroding shorelines are so close. This couldn't have come at a better time."
On Friday afternoon, the news still hadn't reached many of the 375 residents in the village 500 miles west of Anchorage.
"Whoa, really?" said Marla Fairbanks, secretary at the school. "Sounds like a dream come true."
She said floods have gotten worse during fall storms the last two years, threatening her house on the safer side of the village.
"Building that community at the new site, it's not just for us, but it's for our children and their children and their children and it goes on," she said.
The Cost of Cold: When the only option is diesel
By Annie Feidt, Alaska’s Energy Desk
How much do you pay to heat your home in the winter?
This week, Alaska’s Energy Desk is kicking off a new series called The Cost of Cold, looking at how Alaskans across the state keep warm at home.
There are a lot of options. Electricity, natural gas, wood, coal… even french fry oil.
But in much of rural Alaska, and even some cities, the primary heating source is diesel, also called heating fuel.
Many families in some of Alaska’s largest cities, like Juneau and Fairbanks, rely primarily on heating fuel. In rural parts of the state, even more people do. Take the Nome area, for example where, 90 percent of households use heating fuel according to U.S. Census data.
And it is not cheap. Cady Lister is chief economist with Alaska Energy Authority, a state corporation that works to reduce the cost of energy.
If you are in a small isolated village that has to have fuel flow in, or even just barged in, but just at a high cost, you still are paying amongst the highest cost for heating fuel and for electricity in the country,” she said.
Just how high is the cost of heating fuel? It varies wildly across the state Lister says.
The state surveys communities on the cost of heating fuel twice a year. In the most recent survey, the lowest price was $1.40 in Atqasuk, on the North Slope, where the borough subsidizes the price.
And the highest was Shishmaref at a little over $15 per gallon, which is pretty astronomical,” she said. More
Problems and Solutions in Unalakleet: Wind, Sun, Water
Could biomass be the future of energy in Juneau?
February 14, 2018 06:03 am - Updated February 15, 2018 08:56 am
By ALEX McCARTHY
Approach would use excess wood from other projects to replace heating oil, save money
Businesses and homes in Alaska are looking to find more efficient ways to heat their buildings, and multiple Juneau organizations have identified one possible solution: wood.
Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) Biomass Program Manager Devany Plentovich spoke at the Southeast Conference’s Mid-Session Summit on Tuesday about the future of using biomass in Juneau. Biomass represents any organisms that can be burned or somehow used to create energy (wood and crops are popular forms).
With the price of fuel oil rising in recent years, organizations are looking for other ways to heat their buildings. Two Juneau entities — Lemon Creek Correctional Center and Bartlett Regional Hospital — have expressed interest in using wood-fueled energy instead of heating oil.
“This is really early in the project development process,” Plentovich said. “One of the first steps is, we need to understand, where would the wood resource come from?”
The AEA, along with the U.S. Forest Service, is conducting a study into wood resources in Juneau. There are quite a few options for what’s called “urban wood waste,” Plentovich said. More
Unalaska revisits wind power, hoping for a renewable energy source
By Zoë Sobel, Alaska's Energy Desk
Unalaskans know the island’s wind is strong — it can blow over 100 miles per hour.
Back in 2005, the city council funded a study to see if that wind could be used for power generation. The former city manager, Nancy Peterson, said that they basically concluded that it wasn’t possible because there was no technology strong enough to withstand Unalaska’s wind.
“We are now 12 years later,” Peterson said. “A lot of technology has changed. There have been a lot of tried and true wind projects throughout the state.”
In October 2017 the city decided to look into it again, and they sought out the help of Josh Craft of the Alaska Energy Authority.
“We all know that it is very windy here,” Craft said. “But we have to find the right wind resource and the quality of wind resource is very important.”
Craft has been advising the city since last fall.
During a recent visit to Unalaska, Craft drove around to look at places the city is considering placing wind turbines. He thinks there’s definitely potential here, but the crazy topography of this volcanic island does pose some challenges. More
In rural Alaska, looking inside the home to reduce energy costs
In diesel-powered villages, electric bills can climb to several hundred dollars a month, especially in the winter.
So a batch of new energy assessors — who live in those communities — are being trained to spot areas of improvement around the home.
Alexis Wagner is looking down at a shiny black Samsung tablet. On it, there’s a list she’ll spend the next two hours filling out.
“When we go through the house, there will be appliance inventory, other plugins, windows,” Wagner explains.
Before we take off our shoes to enter this Juneau home, Wagner fills out the occupancy: there’s a woman who lives here with two small dogs. Even body heat is taken into consideration when evaluating energy efficiency.
She says just scrolling through this list, she’s getting her own ideas. “I have to make a lot of changes to my own house,” she says with a laugh.
Wagner works at the Metlakatla Indian Community as a grant writer. But after today, she’ll be able to do another task, and she’s not alone. Five people are in the group with her — learning this new skill. More
News Releases from Region 10
EPA provides $1.3 million to states for diesel reduction efforts
SEATTLE -- Clean diesel projects throughout the Northwest and Alaska are receiving a $1.3 million boost from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants from its Diesel Emissions Reduction Act program.
"Clean diesel technologies not only improve air quality, but advance innovation and support jobs,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "These projects will significantly reduce harmful emissions and directly benefit the health of residents.”
"By promoting clean diesel technologies, we can improve air quality and human health, advance American innovation, and support green jobs in economically disadvantaged communities, while growing our economy," said Chris Hladick, Regional Administrator for EPA's Northwest & Alaska Region. "Public-private partnerships like the West Coast Collaborative are leading the way on reducing harmful diesel emissions and creating jobs.”
The DERA program is administered by EPA's West Coast Collaborative, a clean air public-private partnership that leverages public and private funds to funds to complete important diesel reduction projects that reduce emissions from the most polluting diesel sources in impacted communities in West Coast states and U.S. territories.
Here’s what each state has received in this year’s funding from the EPA:
Alaska Energy Authority – AEA received $335,024, and is providing $362,942 in mandatory cost share and an additional $53,234 for a project total of $751,200. Funds will be used to complete four to six repowers and generator replacements in rural communities. The repowers and replacements will address antiquated mechanically governed prime power diesel ‘genset’ engines with newer, more fuel efficient Tier 2 and Tier 3 marine engines that reduce diesel emissions and save fuel. This project will reduce 4.2 tons of particulate matter, 46.4 tons of nitrogen oxides, 22.8 tons of carbon monoxide, and 603 tons of carbon dioxide over the lives of the engines. More
New analysis out on renewable energy costs in rural Alaska
Many rural communities in Alaska have been experimenting with renewable energy systems in recent years, trying to reduce the amount of costly fuel they have to ship in. In late December, researchers at the Alaska Center for Energy and Power published a series of articles
looking at how those technologies are doing, and what challenges remain in making them more cost effective.
The analysis includes data from wind, solar electric, biomass, and several other energy technologies that are currently in use in over 100 rural communities around the state.
Erin Whitney is one of the lead researchers. She says that renewable energies are helping to bring costs down in many rural areas, but there are still improvements to be made. One of the big takeaways from her team’s analysis is that the cost of maintaining renewable energy systems — not just installing them — can put a real burden on communities. She says that finding ways to streamline the maintenance process, or coming up with other ways to bring the cost of down is key to making renewable energy solutions sustainable in rural Alaska.
The research was made possible by a grant from the Alaska Energy Authority back in 2015. It was part of their effort to come up with recommendations for making energy more affordable in parts of the state that won’t have access to the proposed natural gas pipeline. More
Community Solar Project coming to Anchorage
ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Anchorage may soon be home to the largest community solar project in Alaska. Chugach Electric is expected to spend around $2 million to construct a 2,000 solar panel field capable of generating 550 megawatt hours per year.
"There will be 500 shares available to members and each share will supplement about 15 percent to 17 percent of energy use," said Sean Skaling, Manager of Business & Sustainable Program Development for Chugach Electric.
After surveying nearly 700 Chugach Members, the co-operative found that 63 percent wanted to see solar projects developed, and 60 percent of those said they'd be willing to pay more for solar power once developed.
Interested Chugach Electric members will be able to buy the shares, which will increase their individual bills slightly, but will help build a more environmentally-friendly generation system.
"We think it's going to be about a $10-a-month (additional) premium, so on average you'll maybe see $25-a-month and you'll get $15 for a monthly premium of about $10 in solar," said Skaling. More