We don't often say nice things about our Governor, and that is because we disagree with many of his policies and tactics wholeheartedly. For instance, one of his first moves as Governor was to dismantle the Climate Action Leadership Team that The Alaska Center, Alaska Youth For Environmental Action, numerous partners, and frontline community members worked hard to help establish under the previous administration. However, in the case of a policy that will help our state do its part to combat emissions, we agree wholeheartedly with his proposed Renewable Portfolio Standard introduced today.
What is a Renewable Portfolio Standard, or an RPS as it is commonly called? It is a policy that requires utilities to sell electricity from renewable sources by specific dates or face financial penalties.
In short, an RPS for Alaska will push our electric utilities to accelerate their trajectory away from fossil fuel power generation. It will push utilities toward wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and hydro projects, either funded by the utility itself or purchased from a company called an Independent Power Producer.
We at The Alaska Center, through programs such as Solarize Anchorage, Solarize MatSu, and Solarize Fairbanks, have actively organized Alaskans in support of increased renewable energy. We have helped elect members to Utility Boards that support increasing renewables. An RPS is something we are confident Alaska utilities can achieve when working together.
SB 179 and HB 301, the Governor's bills call for regulated electric utilities to achieve benchmark renewable energy goals: 20% by the end of 2025, 30% by 2030, 55% by 2035, and 80% by 2040. Numerous exemptions are designed to accommodate utilities and help them reach the goal. For instance, should a major natural disaster impact a utility's ability to meet its renewable goal, it would grant an exemption from the non-compliance penalty.
Faced with steadily increasing natural gas prices, many utilities, pushed by their members and their boards of directors, have moved toward renewable energy. The Homer Electric Association has adopted an aggressive goal of achieving 50% renewable energy by 2025. Large batteries are being incorporated into the renewable energy strategy to help balance the variable energy inputs of renewable energy production.
The recent passage of legislation requiring the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to approve an Integrated Resource Plan for the railbelt will help guide the process of integrating an increase in renewable energy and will provide the public and utilities with a process-oriented approach to the construction of new generation facilities. This legislation will help Alaskans avoid an ad-hoc, willy-nilly scramble by individual utilities toward renewable energy projects and instead will set standards and requirements for the projects on a regional basis.
While the Governor's bills have a long and winding road through the committee process, the fact that this policy has been introduced is a good thing.
The Alaska Center
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