Beyond Bill Numbers: Clean Energy Update

It’s the year of energy legislation in Alaska – and we’ve seen lots of big ideas introduced in Juneau. As bills make their way through committees and amendments, none of them come out looking exactly the same as the version that was introduced. To that end, we want to highlight the clean energy issues that have popped up in various bills, and update you on our focus: getting clean energy online now.  


We have seen multiple efforts to create new standards along the railbelt for renewable/clean energy generation. The Chugach Electric Association passed a resolution supporting a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in general, but has not publicly taken a position on any specific bill. While the details of these proposals look different, the basic effect is that utilities along the railbelt (like Chugach Electric Association, Homer Electric Association, and others) would be required to get some amount of their energy from renewable or clean energy sources by a certain deadline. Many states have standards like this, and it is imperative that we develop similar standards in Alaska to achieve our vision of a Just Transition. Critically, these standards mean nothing unless backed by either an enforcement mechanism or a significant incentive for utilities to meet these goals – we have seen nonbinding aspirations like 50% renewable by 2025 fail to materialize without these things. 

Legislation has also been introduced that would make renewable energy more accessible to many Alaskans through a program called Community Solar. This would allow Alaskans who cannot directly install solar panels on their property to subscribe to a solar array elsewhere, opting into renewable energy even if they rent, have a suboptimal property for generation, or do not have the upfront capital to install solar panels. It would also allow Alaskans to develop solar arrays or run of the river hydro projects, and sell the energy generated directly to the local utility provider. This tool for getting more renewables online and in use has been rolled out in 43 states – which gives us the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others as we get things started here. 

Bills to create a Green Bank have been introduced in both the House and Senate in Alaska, which would create an energy independence fund to leverage private financing and invest in renewable energy technology. This could fund things like heat pumps, electric vehicle charging stations, and more critical infrastructure that a traditional financial institution is less likely to finance. More information about Green Banks can be found here

And finally, we’ve heard calls to match the federal government’s Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) funding awarded to Alaska. The U.S. Department of Energy has allocated $206,500,000 to the Alaska Energy Authority for railbelt resiliency, which will allow our state to modernize transmission infrastructure and make our grid more efficient and affordable across the railbelt. This funding requires the state to make a dollar-for-dollar match. We strongly urge the legislature to allocate a state match to federal GRIP funding in order to secure these critical infrastructure upgrades.


At the same time, we’ve seen some troubling things put forth that threaten Alaska’s energy future. While you may have heard about the shocking inclusion of coal as “clean energy,” here’s what else we find concerning about proposed energy legislation this session. 

Rather than focusing on transitioning to alternative energy sources, some legislators are making efforts to expand oil and gas production within our state. One bill suggests creating a working group made up of resource developers and related legislators, whose sole purpose would be “to determine methods to increase oil and gas exploration and production in the state.” Others suggest pouring more public money into subsidizing the oil and gas industry directly, or reducing taxes for gas exploration and production. Whatever the method, we oppose formalizing the favoritism of an extractive industry over renewable energy development. 

Finally, we’ve heard concern that new renewable energy cannot be brought online until grid transmission upgrades have been made. We disagree. Though our railbelt transmission system is in need of physical and policy upgrades, we must move forward on every step of the transition process now in order to reach our decarbonization goals by 2040. 


As we close in on the first half of the 2024 legislative session, you can call your legislators and let them know that you support investment in renewable energy for Alaska. While bill numbers may come and go, our message is simple: we must use every tool we have to transition to renewable energy sources now. In order to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change and secure a liveable future for ourselves and generations to come, we cannot afford to wait.

Thank you for standing with us in pursuit of clean energy. Let’s make 2024 a turning point for renewable energy in Alaska!

The Alaska Center

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