New report suggests energy savings for Fairbanks

Posted: Friday, January 07, 2011

FAIRBANKS — It can be cheaper for Fairbanks to invest in energy savings than in new energy sources, according to a new report commissioned by the nonprofit Alaska Conservation Alliance.

The report said the city can cut energy demand in half by investing $100 million in energy efficiency, such as better building insulation and efficient appliances. For example, replacing old refrigerators in 38,000 Fairbanks homes would save 32 million kilowatt-hours per year.

State and local officials gathered Wednesday to discuss the issue, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. They say energy efficiency would save money, improve the business climate and create jobs.

“Energy efficiency and conservation will always be our best economic value and most secure investment. It comes with a high, tax-free rate of return,” said Todd Hoener of Golden Valley Electric Association.

The “Fairbanks First Fuel” report explores how residents, businesses and industries can reduce electricity demand by investing in efficiency. It recommends measures for different sectors.

According to the report, financing is key to getting residents and businesses on board. The utility, for example, could reward those who save by tying rates to how much is energy is used.

“There is no incentive to conserve electricity with the current rate structure,” said Tom DeLong, who is on the board of GVEA. “We could come up with new rates, adjust things between customers.”

Several government programs have encouraged efficiency, such as a 2008 state program that provided $160 million in rebates for resident to save energy in their homes.

Sen. Joe Thomas said such programs must be proven effective.

“My main concern is that we document what we’re doing, so at a later date we can build confidence in the general public,” he said. “It’s so important in allowing us as legislators to make those appropriations.”

Fairbanks has been able to save about $400,000 a year by installing energy-efficient LED lights, said Sen. Joe Paskvan.

David van den Berg, president of the Fairbanks Downtown Association, said most existing programs don’t include the commercial sector.

“How do you make a similar opportunity available to small business and nonprofits?” he asked.

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