Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the creation of a new energy innovation office Friday with the primary purpose to centralize policy developments with regard to the state’s various energy projects and ambitions.
“We have tremendous energy opportunities in the state of Alaska,” Dunleavy said at a news conference. “This office will coordinate the pursuit of energy that is sustainable, dependable and affordable.”
Dunleavy said the new office doesn’t replace another agency.
Curtis Thayer, AEA’s executive director, said the new office “builds on and reaffirms the work that the State of Alaska has already undertaken with our partners here today, and will contribute to economic growth and job creation, as we accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy.”
John Burns, Golden Valley Electric Association’s president, said the energy innovation office adds another tool the Fairbanks-based utility can leverage for projects that benefit its members.
“Safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy is critical to Alaska’s economic and social viability now and into the future,” Burns said. “No one knows that better than the utilities that have the responsibility for serving the businesses and residents of this state.”
Burns added the new office benefits GVEA’s recent decision to adopt a new strategic generation plan, which calls for powering down the coal-fired Healy Power Plant Unit No. 2 by Dec. 30, 2024, and replacing it with wind energy and battery storage alternatives.
An additional benefit includes eventually taking advantage of an eliminated “wind tax” placed on wind projects built on state land.
Gwen Holdmann, the University of Alaska Fairbanks vice chancellor for research, innovation and industry partnerships and founder of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, said it benefits the university.
Holdmann said the new office creates “a holistic approach to look at energy solutions.”
“We have a lot of different agencies and groups working on very specific areas related to our energy future,” Holdmann said. “Bringing together creates more dialogue and interplay to these different agencies.”
The office will also focus on how the state can benefit from and mine critical minerals needed for the future of the nation’s technological, commercial and national security needs.
The news conference came with a host of updates, including a proposed $175 million bond for Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project transmission upgrades from Homer to Anchorage. AEA’s board must first approve it on Oct. 22, but Thayer said it won’t cost ratepayers or the state anything extra and cultivate additional renewable power projects.
“These transmission upgrades will reduce the constraints and improve the Kenai Peninsula ’s capacity to export more power out of Bradley,” Thayer said. “It’s important to note that 17% of Bradley’s power goes to Fairbanks, so this is truly a solution for the Railbelt and everyone benefits from Homer to Fairbanks.”
Bradley Lake power supplies 10% of the power to Railbelt communities in general, so AEA has been looking at other ways to improve energy transmission to “electricity an additional 14,000 to 25,000 homes.”
The Alaska Energy Authority adopted an electric vehicle plan that could bring $52 million to the state, including building a charger network between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The Air Force’s recent release of bid documents for Eielson Air Force Base’s 5-megawatt nuclear micro-reactor project was also included.
“Alaska will become a proving ground for this technology,” Dunleavy said. “Small nuclear technology has the potential to displace diesel generated power in many of our isolated communities.”
Holdmann, who previously spearheaded ACEP’s study on the technology, said the micro-reactors are “quite different from legacy nuclear technologies” that have new generations of safety features and less nuclear material.
Contact reporter Jack Barnwell at 907-459-7587 or email@example.com.