JUNEAU — While the rest of the Capitol Building was stirring awake early Thursday morning, a group of legislators tasked with developing Alaska’s resources to solve the state’s energy problems met for the first time.
It was the Senate Special Committee on In-State Energy and its co-chairs Sens. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, and John Coghill, R-North Pole, say their top priority is to help the Interior.
“I know Fairbanks’ need, there’s no doubt about that, and I’m not leaving Juneau without a solution,” Coghill said after the 7:30 a.m. meeting.
Both Coghill and Bishop said their first priority for the session will to be to address the legislation behind the natural gas trucking plan that Gov. Sean Parnell has proposed. Bishop said it will help settle energy concerns for the state’s second largest community during the next few years, allowing more focus on long-term projects like the Alaska Standalone Pipeline Project.
“We’ll shine the light on the Interior and rural Alaska with our dire straights up there,” he said. “Then we’ll get this trucking project out first and foremost, then we’ll take a look at the pipeline.”
The goal with the In-state energy committee, Coghill said, is to develop an inventory of the needs and resources of the state to help the Legislature and governor prioritize expensive energy projects.
They began with a presentation from the Alaska Energy Authority, covering a slew of energy projects from the Railbelt to Southeast and to rural Alaska.
“The building blocks of energy planning is in place,” Coghill said. “There’s renewable energy, the use of natural gas, biomass, and we’re looking at hydro power.”
Their efforts, though, won’t be solely focused on big, expensive energy projects. Coghill said he’ll also be interested to see how previous AEA efforts to improve energy efficiency throughout rural communities could be applied in other parts of the state.
Addressing previous efforts to come up with a comprehensive energy solution for the state, Bishop said he’s not interested in starting from scratch and will be building on those efforts.
He said that could mean either seeing existing energy projects through to completion or possibly looking at reorganizing the state’s energy efforts under one roof.
“There’s a huge appetite around energy and finding real solutions to lower the cost of energy across the state,” he said.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.