Monday, May 13, 2019

Concerned About Climate Change? Vote!

2020 update coming soon!

Anyone living in Alaska for more than a few years knows that global warming is real. I live in Girdwood and have seen Alyeska’s ski season shortened 8 weeks in the last 7 years by warmer temperatures.

Alaska is warming at twice the global average rate and the scientific consensus is strongly in agreement that the warming is due primarily to rising atmospheric CO2 levels. The combustion of fossil fuels for transportation and electric power generation are the two largest contributors. Electric power generation in Alaska is costly and high impact in its present form. Only Hawaii has more expensive electricity due to our heavy dependence on high-priced Cook Inlet natural gas.

Low cost renewable energy has revolutionized the power industry in the lower 48 with significant reductions in rates, as well as in carbon emissions. This can, and must, happen in Alaska.

Anchorage area electricity is produced by Municipal Light and Power and the Chugach Electric Association. CEA is a member-owned non-profit cooperative, which means if you pay an electric bill, you can vote in the Board of Directors election going on now.

Make your voice heard.

Make the decision to vote, and you can make a difference.

Mitchell Roth is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a Chugach Electric Association Board Candidate.

Learn more about Mitch in his interview with AKCAN! Co-Director Bjorn Olson.

Watch the full Chugach Candidate Forum.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Five easy steps to reduce Alaska's greenhouse gas emissions

In honor of Earth Day, here are five easy steps Alaska's Electric Utility Coops and Boroughs can take this year to save money and significantly reduce our individual and collective greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions:

1. Adopt emission reduction goals 

As the planet warms, we know we need to steeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.  According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others, we need to reach net-zero green house gas emissions by 2050.

This January Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks took the lead by adopting the goal of reducing emissions 26% by 2030.  There are multiple benefits of cutting GhG emissions including; improving local air quality, protecting the climate, saving ratepayers money by reducing the need for utilities to buy and burn expensive fracked gas that also harms Cook Inlet ecosystems and communities.

According to the GVEA website, the 26% reduction will be measured against the utility's 2012 emission levels and management will use a variety of methods to achieve the reductions, including renewable energy, waste-heat recovery, demand-side management, alternative fuels and energy storage.

We'd like to see the other Railbelt utilities follow suit and then some by setting a GhG reduction goal of 50% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050 (or sooner).  These goals are ambitious but are in keeping with the goal of keeping the planet well below 2 degrees C warming.  

2. Cheap Energy Efficiency Gadgets

ComEd Market Place offers deep discounts to utility coops that they could pass on to members.  For example, the utility can bulk purchase LED lightbulbs for just $1/per bulb.  There are lots of other energy saving gadgets that could be distributed to members at a big discount. What the utility could save in fuel costs could more than make up for the investment.

3. On-bill Financing

The Alaska legislature passed an on-bill financing bill last year that allows Alaska utilities to loan customers money for energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy systems by tacking on a charge to their monthly utility bill.  On-bill financing is a form of lending that is catching on throughout the lower 48 as a means of incentivizing energy efficiency and point of use renewable energy.  The utility loans could cover a range of upgrades including solar panels, higher efficiency appliances and switches in heating fuel systems.  So far, no Alaska utility has adopted the program.

We think it's time!

4.  Adopt Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing (C-PACE)

C-PACE is a program that allows local governments to serve as a middleman between business owners and private lenders to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades and pay off loans via property taxes. That loan is repaid through a line item on their assessment and the debt stays with the building, if it is sold, instead of the building owner, thereby reducing risks for property owners.

State lawmakers passed C-PACE legislation last year and the Alaska Energy Authority has been working with Kenai Peninsula, Matanuska Susitna, Fairbanks North Star, Juneau Boroughs and the Municipality of Anchorage to explore its' adoption.   To date C-PACE has not been implemented by any Alaska borough and they need your encouragement. Contact your Borough reps today and tell them to adopt C-PACE asap!  We can't wait two more years. 

5.  Vote and attend your utility annual meeting. 

Last, but certainly not least; many Alaskans don't realize they are member-shareholders of their electric utility.  The Alaska Railbelt grid is powered by 5 member-owned utility cooperatives; Golden Valley Electric Association (Fairbanks and surrounding areas), Matanuska Electric Association (Talkeetna to Eagle River) and Chugach Electric (Anchorage to Girdwood).  Every household that pays a utility bill has a VOTE and elections are underway now!

Click on your utility page above to find out election and annual meeting dates.  Use your vote and voice to tell your electric coop board members that reducing green house gas emissions is important; for your pocket-book, the planet and for the health of Cook Inlet communities, the environment and our future. 

VOTE for the AKCAN! endorsed GREEN energy candidates and please help spread the word!

Mitchell Roth (CEA before May 21st)
Check out Mitchell's new video here
Check out Mitchell's Glacier City Gazette OpEd here 

Erin McKittrick (HEA before May 2nd) - elected! 

Kerry Williams (MEA before Apr 23rd) - short only 368 votes, Kerry will run again in 2021!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How can we use less gas? Erin McKittrick, HEA Candidate Knows How

On April 1, Homer Electric Association mailed ballots to around 23,000 member-owners. I’ve been one of those members for around a decade, and I’m not sure how many times I’ve filled out my yearly ballot, but this time I'm on it. I’m running for the board of directors in HEA District 3, which stretches from Nanwalek to Kasilof.

As HEA, we own the smallest and furthest south portion of the Railbelt electricity grid, which reaches all the way to Fairbanks, and serves two thirds of Alaskans. Nearly all of that electricity — 88% of our power — comes from just one source: Cook Inlet natural gas. The majority of Cook Inlet natural gas is produced by a single company: Hilcorp.

This dependence leaves us vulnerable. Our electricity ($0.23/kWh on my last bill), is the most expensive on the Railbelt. It is more expensive than any other state apart from Hawaii. Around 35% of that (the "cost of power adjustment" on your bill), is fuel costs. Cook Inlet natural gas is more than twice as expensive as gas in the lower 48, and that price is only going to rise. Geologically speaking, we’re not running out of gas in Cook Inlet. But as we draw down existing fields, the costs of new exploration and construction will drive the price up far beyond what we’ve seen. A state study from last year suggests that by 2030, new gas production would need to sell for nearly double the current price to be economic for the companies to develop. Potential large projects, like the Donlin and Pebble Mine proposals, could draw enough gas to make that happen even sooner.

How can we use less gas? Our new natural gas plants are more efficient than the older ones. Efficiency, in our power plants and our houses, is a key piece of the puzzle. By itself, it's not enough. Ultimately, we need to break our dependence on expensive fossil fuels. Policies to curb climate change may drive fossil fuel prices even higher than economics will. For example, the tax regime in British Columbia would add 35% to our gas prices if it were happening here. The impacts of climate change hit harder every year, and Alaska is warming at twice the global average rate. Over the next few decades, climate change will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Ethically and economically, we need to be part of the solution.

We must prepare now for our energy future. This future will include more renewables, energy storage and smart systems for moving electricity when and where it is needed. To get there, we need to collaborate with other Railbelt utilities, fix transmission bottlenecks, and eliminate inefficiencies. We need to improve our system to allow low cost renewables to be integrated into the grid, keep rates down, and prepare for the future. Without these improvements, we'll be stuck with skyrocketing costs and no quick fix. We can’t get there immediately, but if we don’t start now, we can’t get there at all.

Unlike most of the country, we're lucky enough to own our electricity grid. HEA is a cooperative, and we can decide its priorities. Take five minutes to fill out your ballot when it comes in the mail.

Erin McKittrick
Homer Electric Association Board of Directors Candidate

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Introducing the Alaska Utility Member Action Campaign

Welcome to the Alaska Utility Member Action Campaign (UMAC), an initiative of the Alaska Climate Action Network (AKCAN!).

Keep reading if you:
  • live in Alaska 
  • pay a monthly electricity bill 
  • want more renewable energy to power your home, business and community
We're here to help utility coop members in Alaska who want more of their electricity to come from low cost, efficient, clean energy sources.

Click on your electric utility coop page above to learn about upcoming March-April-May 2019 elections and how you can take action to move Alaska towards a New Energy Future.

We are just getting started - check back soon!

Concerned About Climate Change? Vote!

2020 update coming soon! Anyone living in Alaska for more than a few years knows that global warming is real. I live in Girdwood and hav...