AEL&P a good community citizen

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The ongoing energy crisis in Juneau brings a variety of negative emotions to the surface that have crept into the blogs. Before the anger grows to silly proportions, I'd like to offer a layman's point of view to ponder.

When the federal Snettisham project first came online, a few of the transmission towers transiting the Sheep Mountain ridge just northwest of Taku Inlet came crashing down during a high wind storm. Poor design was blamed. Wind speeds of more than 180 mph were reported in that area.

The lines were rerouted to a lower elevation. Now, years later, we lost a few towers further south due to catastrophic avalanches. Again, this speaks to a design issue. Conditions worse than expected occurred, causing another catastrophic failure to the federal project. The big difference, of course, is that the earlier catastrophe occurred while the cost of diesel fuel was about ⅛th of what it is today. Also, at that time, the peak energy usage by Juneauites was much much lower, requiring substantially lower consumption of the diesel fuel.

During the entire life of the Snettisham project to this point, the citizens of Juneau have enjoyed one of the lowest electrical rates in the state. It was Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. that guided the process those many years ago to give our citizens the benefit of these wonderful rates.

In my memory spanning more than 60 years of living in this area, the various managers of AEL&P have always been looking for ways to keep our energy costs as low as feasible. I think this has been a great example of private enterprise working as intended.

While Juneau citizens might have enjoyed the lowest power rates through AEL&P's stewardship, compare that to the cost of renting a stall in one of our harbors. Our harbors and airport, operated by the government, give us among the highest rates in the region driving many commercial fishermen to other ports.

I tip my hat to the management of AEL&P.

We should be proud of what they have given to this community over the last 100 years. This is not the time to castigate them for what is really an original power transmission line design issue by the federal government. Apparently, according to a recent Juneau Empire report, the state of Alaska owns the transmission line these days. Perhaps it is time for Gov. Sarah Palin to step up to the plate and do the right thing.

David Fremming


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