AEL&P shouldn't supply Greens Creek with excess power

Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am in receipt of my household electric bill for October. It contains a riff on the subject of lake water levels at Snettisham, the need to conserve electricity and the inevitable need to start up the diesel generation backup system. This presentation by Alaska Electric Light & Power contains in microcosm the elements of the American environment and climate change dilemma.

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In the recent past, a high-voltage line was installed down North Douglas, across Young Bay and Admiralty Island to supply excess power to Greens Creek Mine. Selling excess hydro power that saves a large local employer from having to burn diesel is a good move. Now, however, the excess part of the equation turns out not to be the case, so to maintain the status quo, every household in Juneau is in the position of subsidizing Greens Creek.

Being subsidized by everybody does not mesh with the strong independent capitalist image that the mining industry likes to project. So one question is whether throwing Greens Creek back on its own devices would solve the supply problem for town. One can presume that there are contract problems with this option, so AEL&P is in the position of blaming a dry August for its action of having sold every one of its customers down the river for the sake of a single payer.

The larger issue is the assumption in the AEL&P presentation that electricity is like oxygen, unchallenged as a necessity of life. So faced with a power supply shortfall, the first and only option offered is to start burning fuel, regardless of Juneau's carbon footprint. This option should in fact be the last one, preceded by draconian conservation measures to include rolling blackouts or whatever is required to make Juneau's electricity consumption match its supply. If Juneau's way of life is in fact non-negotiable, regardless of the consequences to the environment, and if this green revolution cannot in fact involve any sacrifice, then we have already lost the battle.

Eric Forrer


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