The role of government in pushing different sectors of the economy to innovate through policy, tax incentives, and funding is well established. While some may oppose a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS policy to push electric utilities to generate or purchase more renewable energy, there is at least a broad historical precedent for the success of the policy.
The benefits of an RPS include economic development and construction and maintenance jobs to create the new generation facilities. For customers, increased renewable energy will put (in the parlance of utility managers) "downward pressure" on the rates we pay per kilowatt-hour. The transmission constraints and bottlenecks will have to be addressed for Alaska's railbelt to achieve the proposed 80% renewable energy by 2040, and that is a good thing. Transmission upgrades build a bigger freeway for electrons to travel on and build important resiliency in our Alaskan system that's subject to the weather rigors we know and love, not to mention natural disasters.
Jobs, innovative technologies, likely lower electric rates, and increased transmission system efficiency are not bad things. Considering that transportation and industry are both likely to move toward electric power soon and increase the load on the system as a whole both day and night, and considering the rapid advancement of battery storage to levelize the peaks and valleys of some renewables (as well as old and proven storage technology option of pumped hydro) the concerns of utility managers about renewable energy load variability are surmountable.
Judging by the discussion in the first Senate hearing on the Governors RPS legislation, there seems to be an interest expressed by some committee members in adding micro-nuclear reactors as an option for utilities to meet their RPS goals. This is a non-starter and likely would be opposed even by the Governor. Adding an unproven technology like micro-nuclear reactors into a policy that puts utilities on a time-sensitive course for achieving renewable energy goals could be a hindrance, not to mention the other negatives associated with nuclear (security threat, waste storage, etc.) There is a stand-alone bill pertaining to small nuclear generators, and in a stand-alone bill, it should remain.
Next week, the House Energy Committee will hold two hearings on the RPS bill (HB 301). The first hearing is on Tuesday, March 8 at 10:15 a.m., and the second on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. These will be excellent opportunities for the public to learn more about the RPS. In addition, The Alaska Center will be hosting a webinar on March 10 at noon with House Energy Committee Chair, Representative Calvin Schrage as well as members of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to discuss what an RPS is, the outlook for the policy this session, and how you can be involved.
If you're interested in attending here is the registration information!
It is an exciting week ahead for the future of Alaska. Plan to tune in!
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