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If Gov. Sean Parnell is truly committed to the priority of "resources, energy, and the environment," he should fully fund the Alaska Energy Authority's recommended Renewable Energy Fund (ReFund) projects and put the Gastineau Elementary School ground source heat pump back on the table.
Parnell could reverse his 2010 budget slashing by reinvesting in the next budgets. Politics interfered and he only funded the first $25 million, 22 projects, of the AEA's recommended $66 million, 90 projects ($223 million requested). The Legislature created the fund in 2008 and intended a $50 million annual appropriation for five years, and as a result Alaska was highly ranked nationally for this commitment to renewable energy. Based on AEA's scoring system and ranking, Gastineau was in the second of three tiers and by Parnell slashing the budget, only the first tier was funded, including only one of 23 recommended projects in Southeast. His predecessor had a much better track record funding 103 projects for $125 million.
Not only would the Gastineau school heat pump be better for school kids' health, the environment and sustainability, it's a great educational example of how similar alternative carbon-free heating methods like air-air heat pumps could be used for commercial and residential uses. Heat pumps are commonplace in the cold Scandinavian countries and they are starting to be installed in the U.S. A ground source heat pump is already heating part of the airport (funded by former Gov. Sarah Palin) and will eliminate 29,500 gallons of fuel, 658,000 lbs of carbon dioxide annually. The new pool will also be heated entirely by a heat pump. The Auke Bay Elementary School is to be remodeled or rebuilt and would also be a good candidate for this carbon-free technology. The city and Borough of Juneau answered when we said we want this technology for Gastineau School by matching with $250,000.
The state is in its best financial position ever, and the governor can put some heat back in the budget and save resources by using clean energy and improve the environment.