Renewable energy initiative projects in the works for rural and urban Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP) is working with rural communities throughout Alaska to provide reliable and more cost effective energy solutions.
For a little over a year, the project members have been working to emphasize energy resilience and help the most remote areas adapt to changing conditions and recover from energy disruptions.
Rural communities are broken down into micro-grids, which essentially means that unlike areas on an interconnected grid such as Anchorage, energy cannot be pulled from other providers if there is an outage in the community. Officials with the project say this places importance on the reliability of the generation in a community. Energy determines where people choose to live and REAP wants to make that possible for all rural Alaskans. They hope that by providing this kind of technical assistance, they will help people that make the choice to live in these rural Alaska communities, and do so in the most comfortable fashion possible.
Sitka, Ouzinkie, Dillingham and Wainwright are the current communities receiving technical assistance through the project. Each area gets a unique type of assistance based off their geographical location. Across the board, project members say it means customers will end up paying less. The projects are expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.
Developments are also in the works for urban areas throughout the Railbelt. Currently, 15% of renewable energy is being used in Alaska. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed House Bill 301 to flip that number and set a goal for 80% renewable energy.
Chris Rose, the executive director for REAP, believes there is a common misconception in Alaska that since natural gas is produced locally, it must be cheap. According to Rose, it’s twice as expensive as utilities in the Lower 48.
“We are an oil and gas producer but we’ve never gotten a hometown discount,” Rose said. “The diesel that people rely on for electric generation in rural Alaska makes those places pay some of the the highest electric costs in the country.”
Rose also states that if Alaska gets to 80% renewable, natural gas savings can be displaced by $400 to $500 million in savings per year. Project members say investors look for states with clean energy, so HB 301 will make Alaska look more attractive to companies looking for a place to settle. The first hearing on the bill will take place Feb. 21.
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