SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Renewable energy fund beginning of political commitment
By Sen. Johnny Ellis and Rep. Bill Thomas


April 23, 2007

Rarely a week passes these days without some news about the increasing importance of renewable energy. In Alaska we have some of the best renewable energy possibilities in the country, with wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass and tidal and wave power. In order to accelerate development of those resources, we have introduced legislation to establish a renewable energy fund for Alaska, working with House Speaker John Harris and Sen. Gary Stevens.

The bills would provide funds for grants and loans to develop local, clean and limitless energy resources in Alaska. House Bill 152 and Senate Bill 96 would help communities and utilities pay for the expensive up-front costs of building renewable energy projects and connecting to existing power grids.

Once those power plants are in place, the beneficiaries will enjoy one of renewable energy's principal advantages: There are no ongoing fuel costs for energy projects that rely on wind, water or the earth's heat for energy. The renewable energy fund will help provide Alaskans with energy at stable prices which, over the long term, is less expensive than energy that relies exclusively on fossil fuels.

Consumers across the state are feeling the unpleasant effects of rising fossil fuel prices. The growing cost of village Alaska's dependence on diesel fuel has hindered economic development and prosperity in Alaska's remote communities for years. Meanwhile, the rapid increase in natural gas prices has grabbed urban Alaska's attention. Diminishing supplies of Cook Inlet natural gas provide a substantial urgency to begin utilizing Southcentral's abundant renewable energy resources.

This legislation is a bipartisan effort to elevate renewable energy resource development in Alaska. Besides providing for grants and loans administered by the Alaska Energy Authority, it will provide for production credits that will allow borrowers to reduce their loan debt for every kilowatt hour of renewable electricity they produce. Those credits will give power plant operators an extra incentive to keep their projects running at maximum efficiency. The program will also give more consideration to grant proposals that leverage other sources of funding.

For decades Alaska has been a hub of oil development. Now we are poised to become a leader in the development of natural gas. Because we are also blessed with renewable energy resources, it is no stretch to say that we have the opportunity to become a world leader in that development, too. What we still need is the political determination to make renewable energy development a priority for Alaska. This legislation is an essential demonstration of that political will.

More than 30 other states have already legislated statewide policies that promote renewable energy development. Those states are seeing energy investments pour into them, creating both new industry and jobs. It's the right moment for Alaska to do the same the thing.

Alaska has scores of places where wind, hydro and other renewable energy resources could be brought online. A renewable energy fund for Alaska will provide assistance to communities that want to tap into local supplies of inexhaustible energy but lack the capital to get the project started. It's also an important step forward.

About: Sen. Johnny Ellis is an Anchorage Democrat; Rep. Bill Thomas is a Haines Republican.



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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska