My turn: Alaskans stand to benefit from energy stimulus funds

Posted: Sunday, April 12, 2009

Last September, Gov. Sarah Palin declared September "Energy Efficiency Month", explaining that "One of the best things we can do as Alaskans to stretch our family dollars further is to save energy - at home and on the road." Yet, when given the opportunity to augment our energy efficiency, weatherization and energy development programs in Alaska she is threatening to turn away as much as $55.5 million for energy relief from the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Not only would these funds help Alaskans improve efficiency and reduce costs, but they could fund some of the 28 renewable energy projects currently being passed over due to inadequate state funds.

According to a recent press release, Palin is concerned that the funds in question could "subject Alaska to more federal control and ever-increasing federal mandates." However, research indicates that the only substantive 'mandate' attached to the State Energy Program funds are that the governor must certify that at least 90 percent of new and renovated residential and commercial building spaces will meet or exceed the most recently published International Energy Conservation Code (for residential) or the ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA standard 90.1-2007 (for commercial) within eight years.

Because we have time to devise a code that fits Alaska, such as exempting all communities with a population of 2,500 or less, the Alaska Legislature has determined that this is not a burdensome string. In fact, many people view the step toward building more energy efficiency residences and businesses as an opportunity to reduce expenses. For example, a 2004 study by the Michigan State Energy Office showed an average savings of $1,046 over a seven-year period. Additionally, building energy codes could benefit Alaskans in less obvious ways, like increasing resale values for homes.

Plus, energy codes are good public policy. The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation has already adopted the IECC Code and requires any of its loan recipients to build in an energy efficient manner. After all, building something right the first time is less expensive and easier that fixing a building after the fact. Alaska has nothing to lose and everything to gain if our governor does accepts all of the $55.6 million in energy stimulus funds.

Bottom Line: There are no burdensome requirements that would preclude acceptance of these much needed energy funds. The glass is more than half full.

• Kate Troll is executive director of Alaska Conservation Alliance and Alaska Conservation Voters. She lives in Douglas.

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