ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Gov. Mike Dunleavy introduced two identical bills to the Alaska House and Senate on Friday, according to a press release, that seek to promote “energy independence” and an emphasis on renewable energy.
House Bill 301 and Senate Bill 179 are the second introduction of bills in an energy legislation package from the Dunleavy administration, after SB 177 — an act relating to microreactors — was introduced on Tuesday. If passed, the press release states that Alaska would be joining 30 other states and two U.S. territories to create a renewable portfolio standard. The press release said that Dunleavy has a “firm commitment” to achieving 30% sustainable power by 2030 and 80% by 2040.
The press release states that Dunleavy’s work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory — a six-week study using only biomass, geothermal, hydro power, landfill gas, solar photovoltaic technology, tidal energy and wind — showed that the figure of 80% sustainable energy is “highly achievable” according to the press release.
“We have a responsibility to look beyond the immediate future and toward the world our children will inherit,” Dunleavy said in the release. “Remaining captive to a costly and unpredictable fuel marketplace is not an option. It’s time to cut the talk and put Alaska on a path toward energy independence.”
In a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study, authors Paul Denholm, Marty Schwarz, Elise DeGeorge, Sherry Stout and Nathan Wiltse wrote that 75% of the electric load in Alaska is contained on the Railbelt between Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula. The six-week study only included technology options included in the draft renewable power standard provided by the governor’s office.
There were five possible scenarios developed to demonstrate the feasibility of the 80% figure, one of which relied on 65% of annual power generation from hydroelectric and another that relied on 60% of power coming from a combination of wind and solar.
“This analysis is a starting point for additional research and consideration of investment or policy options. Other factors that can inform decision-making are not considered here,” wrote the authors. “… The overarching finding of this analysis is that there are likely multiple pathways to achieving an 80% RPS while maintaining reliable service. All modeled scenarios can achieve 80% renewable energy while maintaining a balance of supply and demand with no unserved energy or reserve shortages during normal operations.”
A frequently asked questions sheet produced by the governor’s office said that Alaska’s reliance on a single source for energy was “dangerous” and that power costs had increased 270% over the last decade. The sheet also said that the energy legislation package would not signal a policy shift away from oil and gas.
“Absolutely not. The governor continues to strongly support the oil and gas industry and believes no one produces these resources in a cleaner manner than Alaska,” the FAQ states.
According to the study, annual fee savings of between $426-506 million would be possible if the 80% sustainable energy figure was reached. In order to achieve the figure, the study said that upgrades to transmission capacity between Willow and Healy along the Alaska Intertie would be necessary.
The press release states that further upgrades between the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage would provide a benefit to the renewable energy capacity of the Railbelt. The release states that Dunleavy’s intent with the introduction of the energy bills is to promote energy independence, reduce costs over time and establish competitive markets in both rural and urban environments.
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