Juneau focuses on energy issues

Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Energy issues have come to the fore as the Juneau Planning Commission reviews the city's long-term plan, which originally included a goal of converting all homes, private vehicles and public transportation to electric power.

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"The bottom line is we will never have enough hydro to make this an all-electric city," said Gayle Wood, director of consumer affairs with Alaska Electric Light & Power Co.

Know and go

• What: Juneau Planning Commission Committee of the Whole.

• Where: Assembly Chambers.

• When: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.

• What: Discussion of natural resources, parks and recreation sections of the city's long-term plan.

• On the Web: http://www.juneau.org/cddftp/CompPlanUpdate.php.

She said there is already enough demand to absorb the surplus that Lake Dorothy facilities will bring when its facilities go online in 2010. The company gets most of its power now from its Snettisham facilities, about 28 miles southeast of downtown Juneau. Lake Dorothy is 16 miles southeast of Juneau.

"There was a huge emphasis on converting almost everything to electrical," city planner Ben Lyman. "Now we are taking the emphasis off of converting to hydro energy to a more balanced approach."

The Planning Commission will spend until January reviewing different sections of the plan, the latest draft of which was released in July. The last plan was adopted in 1996, and this plan is expected to take the city through the year 2020.

The commission reviewed energy issues at its meeting last week and will hear about natural resources this week.

Lyman said such long-term plans provide a collective vision to policymakers, and guide important development and investment decisions. It's also an important element in securing liability insurance.

"Without a plan and a strategy for moving forward, you wouldn't know where to extend sewer. You wouldn't know which bridges need to be constructed, wouldn't know where to put a new school," Lyman said.

Bill Leighty, a Juneau resident and small business owner for 35 years, said there's a misunderstanding that Juneau runs off of clean energy. He estimates only 12.5 percent of Juneau's economy runs off of hydroelectric, while the rest is fossil-fuel dependent. That includes people and goods brought in on airplanes, barges, ferries and cruise ships.

The high price of oil and global warming have brought the issue of emphasizing renewable energy back to the fore, he said. He hopes the language in the plan referring to converting to "hydro" power will be replaced with "renewable" power.

He believes the city could make considerable investments in conservation and efficiency, and pushed for exploring geothermal heating options.

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