News-Miner opinion: With Alaskans paying about double the national average on a per capita basis for energy, Gov. Mike Dunleavy is asking the Legislature to approve the Alaska Energy Independence Act, which could go a long way toward making the state a clean energy leader.
The legislation — introduced as Senate Bill 123 and House Bill 170 — would capitalize the Alaska Energy Independence Fund with $10 million from the state’s general fund to help finance clean energy projects. It would be managed by Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority as a stand-alone fund.
Loans and other forms of affordable financing from the fund — which would be used to leverage private investment — could be used for everything from Alaska’s home winterization efforts to clean transportation through electric, hydrogen, hybrid and zero-emission vehicles. It could be used to stimulate investment in micro- and smart-grids in communities or greenhouse emissions reduction through reforestation and regenerative agriculture.
“This bill and this concept is something all Alaskans can get behind because the focus is cheap, reliable energy opportunities that can benefit all Alaskans on both a micro- and macro-level,” Dunleavy said. “With the state’s abundance of renewable fuel sources like water, wind and solar, Alaska is poised to be a leader in energy independence for its citizens.”
The fund would use money in the AIDEA-managed fund, a “green bank” if you will, to leverage and attract private sector development, the governor’s office says. It is anticipated it would be self-sufficient and grow through its loan portfolio.
It is not a new idea. Dunleavy’s proposed legislation trails a bill in Congress that would create a $100 billion fund to capitalize green banks across the nation and help finance infrastructure and clean energy projects. Alaska Congressman Don Young is a co-sponsor of that measure, House Resolution 806, and says it could produce 5,000 jobs in Alaska and millions across the United States in the next few years if approved.
If it passes, he says, Alaska could receive $130 million and the AIDEA-managed fund would facilitate the state’s receipt of that funding.
Green banks have been established at the national level in Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. At least 20 other jurisdictions, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have them in the United States, greenbanknetwork.com reports.
Alaskans pay a whopping 21.91 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity. The United States national average is 12.80 cents per kilowatt-hour. With Alaskans paying the third-highest energy costs in the nation — adding up to $8,060 on an individual basis or $6 billion annually for all of Alaska — the idea of increasing clean energy through green banks partnering with private investment seems to us an idea whose time has come.
Reduced energy costs can only help our struggling economy, and a healthy economy produces jobs and opportunities.
Alaskans should hope the Legislature sees it that way.