My turn: A bright idea: We need more protection

Posted: Thursday, May 08, 2008

I have lots of time to think when, after dinner, I climb into bed for warmth and try to consume less electricity by not using light bulbs and the television.

I can now read by battery-operated headlamp and snuggle in my down blanket. Ah, "urban camping."

I exaggerate a bit, but I am sure others would nod their heads in agreement. As utility users, we should have some mandated protection mechanisms in place to protect us from such losses as happened last month with Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. I don't care if the Army Corps of Engineers built the towers as best it could or that this hasn't happened before. Sooner or later, something is always bound to happen. That is the stance that all of our utility providers need to take and be prepared for.

If, over the last however many years Snettisham has been on line, AEL&P had been required to establish and add to an emergency fund - even if we had to pay 1 cent per kilowatt hour into the fund - I would have much preferred that to the current predicament.

The same holds true for water, sewer or garbage. We need to be protected, and that is what the state and city governments are for.

There is no acceptable reason for us to be paying through the nose for electricity except that someone wasn't doing his or her job. There is no one among us who can afford the electrical increases.

Does it do any good to whine about it? No. But you know what? This situation could very easily be replayed again next spring, or it could happen to Green Lake in Sitka or to some other utility.

The cities and state need to figure out a way to enact some protection mechanism so we do not have to go through this again as our infrastructure ages and weather changes. We also need to encourage research into alternatives.

I am sorry, but Lake Dorothy doesn't sound like a reasonable alternative source of power when some of the lines will run along the same path as Snettisham's and when we don't know how much water our lakes will have in the future.

What about wind, solar or gas? Can we trust that AEL&P is seriously studying these alternatives when all of its money is invested in hydrodams? I wouldn't think so.

I feel very uncomfortable right now, and I just wish someone would say or do something to make me and others feel like there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. AEL&P functions at a certainly expected level of profit. What happens when we are retrained to conserve and, when the repairs are done, we are not consuming the power AEL&P has come to expect? My suspicion is that rates will never go down to the point where they "were," whenever that was.

• Kaysa Korpela is a Juneau resident.

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