Energy security task force
In February, Gov. Dunleavy created the Alaska Energy Security Task Force by executive order and charged them with making plans to lower the state’s energy costs. The Task Force intends […]
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In February, Gov. Dunleavy created the Alaska Energy Security Task Force by executive order and charged them with making plans to lower the state’s energy costs. The Task Force intends to deliver a Statewide Energy Master Plan by Dec. 1 and is now taking public comments on their draft.

Their public comment session will be on Oct. 24 from 5-6 p.m. Details, including the call-in link via Microsoft Teams, can be found here. Written comments can also be submitted to: info@akenergysecuritytaskforce.com until October 24. 

Plans and task forces come and go, but with our gas-fueled energy system approaching a crisis, this one will likely impact how legislators think about urgent energy problems when reconvening in January. Making a public comment helps ensure that only the best ideas from the group’s messy 130-page draft plan make it to Juneau.

Some of the plan’s ideas are bad, but many are quite good. For most, the devil is as always in the details. Here’s our analysis of what’s what. Note: The cited page numbers are for the PDF file, not those on the document pages.

The Bad 

Mega-dams and gas lines: The draft mentions only three specific energy projects by name (see page 16, page 96): 

  • Susitna-Watana dam, a $7 billion plan to dam the Susitna River north of Talkeetna. In addition to habitat destruction, megadams like this may not lead to a net decrease in carbon emissions: organic matter that builds up in reservoirs emits the greenhouse gas methane as it decomposes, potentially hurting the climate more than the carbon emissions avoided.   
  • The Dixon Diversion would divert more water into the existing Bradley Lake dam. We don’t condemn Dixon Diversion with the Su dam and the gasline but approach it skeptically. It would be a renewable boost but expensive boost, potentially wasteful compared to wind or solar opportunities. At the least, Dixon Diversion hasn’t received needed public scrutiny.

Boosting industry propaganda: One recommendation (page 67) is for the state to “create and implement a community outreach and education program to combat NIMBYism in energy projects in rural areas.” This program would research how projects “have successfully navigated opposition mounted by local communities and environmental NGOs.” 

Turning a firehose of industry propaganda against legitimate community concerns is nothing close to a real energy solution.

The Good

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS): A pair of RPS bills currently in front of the state legislature would require Railbelt utilities to become 80% renewable by 2040. Read more about why Inletkeeper supports SB 101 and HB 121 bills here. 

The draft plan calls for the adoption of an RPS (pg. 43), but also recommends weakened Clean Energy Standard (CES, pg. 89) that could include loopholes such as counting waste heat recovered from gas turbines as “clean.” The CES suggestion also flips the RPS’s penalties for failing to hit the percentage goals to rewards in the form of state funding for utilities meeting them. 

Green Bank (pg. 47): The plan supports a state financing institution for sustainable energy – a “green bank” as considered in two other bills, SB 125 and HB 154. 

Data (pg. 31, 106-108): The plan suggests making better use of already existing – but scattered, sporadic, and inconsistent – energy data. In addition to guiding decisions, a full and consistent picture of how Alaska uses energy could better equip utilities, agencies, and power producers to seek federal funding. 

The Rest

Here are some important things we don’t have the space to dive into. Hopefully, this can be a starting place for researching your own comments — the page numbers listed in the draft report are a good place to start.

  • Bad: Skirting the federal roadless rule for development in national forests such as the Tongass and Chugach — creating a legal precedent that could be followed by mining and timber ((pg.18-19, 111).
  • Good: Postage stamp transmission rates, that would allow power generated anywhere in the region to be consumed anywhere else for a single transmission rate, analogous to a stamp on a letter. 
  • Good: Net metering reform (pg. 52, pg. 101). 
  • Good: Training and opportunity to grow the renewable energy workforce (pg. 67, 77, and 110) 

Conclusion 

Policy can shift suddenly, but the ideas that shape it accumulate slowly and often with little public attention and critique. Comment on the draft Energy Plan and you can play a part in deciding what ideas legislators pay attention to in the upcoming session. 

Bonus energy news: Inletkeepers in Anchorage also have an upcoming opportunity to support Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) legislation by commenting at the Oct. 25 Chugach Electric Association board of directors meeting. The RPS bills that the legislature will consider when they reconvene in January would require the utilities to be 80% renewable by 2040. Learn more about the RPS and why Inletkeeper supports it here.. We’ll be encouraging the CEA board to pass a resolution supporting an RPS, which would be influential on legislators. Join our friends at the Alaska Center to learn more on Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m. Register here for AKC’s prep night via Zoom. If you aren’t able to speak at the meeting, you can submit written comments here