Comment: Diversify Alaska's energy resources to strengthen our economy

By Lesil McGuire, John Coghill, Harry Crawford, Beth Kerttula and Charisse Millett

Updated: 48 Minutes ago Posted by: 48 Minutes ago

A recent Anchorage Daily News story said a proposed wind farm near Anchorage could give the area's energy supplies a much-needed boost — and be more productive in cooler conditions when demand is high. According to developers, the project, Little Mount Susitna Wind, could have met 20% of the town's electricity needs during January's bitterly cold season.

That's good news given the uncertain outlook for Cook Inlet natural gas. Southcentral Alaska's natural gas utility executives told lawmakers last month that Cook Inlet natural gas supplies could run out of demand early next year — coming „very close” to being unable to supply homes with gas in January.

The Little Mount Susitna Wind Project is an example of Alaska's world-class clean energy opportunities. These resources will help mitigate supply risks and increase our energy independence. But there are wider benefits. As former Alaska legislators, we see the potential of clean energy to spark new economic energy in Alaska and a better future for everyone in the state we love.

Clean energy jobs are driving growth across the country. By 2022, clean energy employment Grown in all 50 states. West Virginia, Oklahoma and New Mexico have led this job growth, with traditional energy positions well positioned to expand into clean energy. Texas produces Most renewable energy of any state.

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Clean energy jobs include jobs related to renewable energy, grid storage solutions, generation and electricity transmission and distribution improvements. They need linemen, construction workers and electricians; Engineers, utility operators, project managers and others. Much of this workforce is already in Alaska, and the skills are highly transferable. These are good paying jobs that will help keep our youth in Alaska.

Alaska has significant global potential in hydroelectricity, wind, geothermal, solar, biofuels and tidal. Thousands of megawatts of clean energy projects have been identified in rural and urban Alaska. With 97 known hot springs, Alaska is geothermally active One of the eight states Generating electricity from geothermal energy. We have 90% Wave energy potential of the country.

We have the resources.

Is it possible to translate this evidence into reality in Alaska? Absolutely. Kodiak generates more than 99% of its electricity from hydroelectricity and wind, and offers lower rates than Anchorage consumers pay. In northwest Alaska, the communities are led by the Shungnak and Kobuk tribes Covers diesel usage and stabilize costs with solar-battery installations. Bradley Lake Hydropower in Homer produces very affordable power on the Railbelt, an interconnected electric grid that runs from Homer to Fairbanks.

These successes did not come without planning and investment. Meaningful development of the clean energy sector in Alaska will require additional investment – ​​and now, significant federal funds are available.

In some cases, federal funds can cover up to 80% of the cost of a renewable project, dramatically improving project economics. Hundreds of millions of federal dollars are on the table for much-needed railbelt transmission improvements.

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Other programs target rural and tribal communities. The US Department of Energy recently Announced $125 million in grants to Alaska for clean energy projects benefiting more than 20 rural communities.

Alaska is at a crossroads. Cook Inlet natural gas supplies are dwindling and the energy system serving 70% of the state's population is at risk. Rural communities are reeling from high costs and unreliable diesel supply. Our working age population is shrinking.

Now is the time for vision and leadership. We have untapped clean energy resources and, for a limited time, access to significant federal dollars to develop them. That's why we're excited New Energy AlaskaA new coalition to ensure Alaska receives the many benefits of clean energy.

We call on Alaska policymakers, utility boards and business leaders to work together to build a strong clean energy sector. Together we can create a more resilient energy system and a vibrant economic future for all Alaskans.

Lesil McGuire, John Coghill, Harry Crawford, Beth Kerttula And Karis Millett He served in the Alaska Legislature for 72 years. They are senior advisors to New Energy Alaska, a nonpartisan coalition working to bring the benefits of clean energy to Alaska.

The views expressed here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a wide range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Please send submissions of less than 200 words [email protected] Or Click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and comments Here.

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