My turn: Thanks to AEL&P for service

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008

Nobody wants to pay a huge electric bill, even if it is for only a few months. Therefore, I was not surprised to see a spate of letters in which many writers blame Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. for the destruction of the transmission line between Snettisham and Juneau.

I was distressed, however, to see the scathing and even personal criticism espoused by some. Apparently, there are people who still don't realize that AEL&P did not design or build the Snettisham power plant and transmission line, nor does it own them. It does have a contract with the owner, the state of Alaska, which gives it the right to take and sell electricity provided it maintains the facilities and pays for the power Snettisham produces, whether or not it is used.

Despite a couple of unfortunate decisions and an environmental catastrophe, AEL&P was, is and will continue to be a good corporate entity and a pillar of this community. It has provided cheap electricity for much of Juneau for about 35 years and for those of us who live north of the Mendenhall River, or more than 18 years. After AEL&P bought out Glacier Highway Electric Co. in 1989, my electric bill dropped 47 percent. This resulted in a savings of more than $11,000 to date. Therefore, if AEL&P charges me 447 percent of my former electric bill for three months, the total will be a small fraction of what they have saved me. I shudder to think what our electricity would cost if a company with no roots in Juneau were running the show.

Besides providing cheap electricity, AEL&P and its shareholders have supported many local organizations and activities including Big Brothers Big Sisters, transportation of athletic groups, United Way, save-the-capital efforts, Eaglecrest Ski Area facilities, the University of Alaska Southeast pavilion and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.

Further, all AEL&P employees have worked very hard to keep the company operating amidst verbal and physical abuse. Presently, AEL&P is way ahead of schedule with its repair of the powerline.

In a classic song, DeSylva and Kern told us to "Look for the silver lining whenever a cloud appears in the blue." I believe the "silver lining" for the Snettisham catastrophe is that it brought this diverse community together and made conservationists of many who never considered themselves as such.

After the line is repaired, I hope that people will continue to use electricity judiciously. It would lessen oil consumption, reduce air pollution and lower their electric bills.

In closing, I'd like to thank AEL&P for a job well done and for making Juneau a better community in which to live.

• Richard Gard is a Juneau resident.

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