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SE Alaska's new energy road map

Posted: July 31, 2012 - 11:02pm

An intertie backbone bringing hydroelectric to all Southeast communities is not feasible, according to the final report on the Southeast Integrated Resource Plan released by the Alaska Energy Authority and contractors Black and Veatch. An Alaska to British Columbia power intertie was also deemed unfeasible by the study.

The report looked into electrical and heating needs of these communities, and found that conversion of home heating from oil to electric has taxed community hydroelectric projects, among other findings.

The plan is a guidepost to energy use and development in 30 Southeast Alaska communities.

The integrated resource plan was completed under direction of the Alaska State Legislature. Public comment and legislative oversight went into shaping the document (goo.gl/knkbt).

Southeast Alaska is at a crossroads, according to the plan. Its mix of generation, energy efficiency, customer energy source conversions, power transmission and transportation resources is historically unique to “economically and reliably meet future electric heating needs,” according to the plan.

Black and Veatch found that “hydroelectric resources are beyond the economic reach of a number of Southeast communities,” according to the plan, “and are forced to walk down the path of diesel fuel dependency.” The plan includes a portfolio of energy options suited to each sub-region.

Alaska Energy Authority spokesperson Karsten Rodvik said researchers recognized as a key foundation of the plan that diverse energy needs exist throughout Southeast.

“A one-size-fits-all approach would not necessarily work,” Rodvik said.

Rodvik said it was important to consider heating needs as well as electricity needs

“Both have an impact on home energy budgets and the Southeast economy as a whole,” Rodvik said.

Alaska Electric Light and Power spokesperson Tim McLeod said no simple solution exists to bring reliable low cost power to all of Southeast.

“Previous studies focused on transmission line interconnections from existing and proposed hydroelectric resources to the communities currently dependent on oil for heating and power generation,” McLeod said in an email interview. “In many cases, those transmission interties are not economical or sustainable.”

McLeod said he believes the plan is valuable.

“The SEIRP identifies the most economical and sustainable solution, primarily using local resources such as biomass and hydroelectricity,” McLeod said. “It identifies energy solutions that with adequate financial support will benefit the communities of Southeast Alaska.”

The energy authority and its consultants propose Southeast energy development in two phases. The phase one focus is on the advancement of energy efficiency and demand-side management and the conversion of Southeast space heaters to biomass. Phase two would focus on hydroelectric and other renewable projects.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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