Port seeks to take over power on the docks

AEL&P says plan would cost city rate payers more money

Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Juneau port officials said it is only fair for the city to take over harbor power from Alaska Electric Light and Power Co., though company officials disagree.

Port Director John Stone said the Docks and Harbors Department spends millions of dollars replacing the electrical system at the harbors while the power company collects all the money.

On Monday, Stone asked the Juneau Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee to allow the Docks and Harbors Department to apply to become a small electric distributor. The city needs certification from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, a state agency that regulates public utilities, to sell electricity.

Tim McLeod, AEL&P's general manager, said Stone's plan would cost consumers more because the company would lose revenue and have to raise rates.

Because of the issue's complexity, the committee didn't make a decision and forwarded the issue to the Assembly Committee of the Whole for consideration.

"We are trying to figure out whether it is going to be beneficial for the city and the harbor users," said Assembly member Merrill Sanford, chairman of the committee.

Right now, AEL&P charges boaters at the same rate as residential users. Boaters need to establish an electric account with the company to plug in.

Based on its agreement with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, AEL&P doesn't need to maintain shore power infrastructure beyond the water's edge.

Stone said the system has caused many operational problems.

"Under the current system, our shore power connections are private electrical accounts," Stone said. "When the account holder vacates their stall, we don't have the capability to put another boat in the stall because no shore power is available.

"This causes us to lose revenue, overcrowd transient areas, exacerbate stall wait-list problems, and build extra stalls to account for poor stall utilization," Stone said.

Stone proposed having the city buy electricity from AEL&P at a cheaper commercial rate and sell electricity to harbor users at its current residential rate. He estimates Docks and Harbors could receive $2.5 million from the rate difference over about 20 years and would use the money to repair harbors.

AEL&P opposes Stone's proposal and arguments.

McLeod of AEL&P said it is maintaining infrastructure, such as transmission lines, to support harbor users. He said Stone's plan might benefit harbor users but may not necessarily help the whole community.

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