Kiel kicked off our new weekly energy updates with a great start last week! As you probably noticed, he is up to his knees in notes from the various energy hearings at the capital. While he runs around Juneau, I’m in Anchorage sticking my nose in assorted energy activities here.
For instance, if you were in Anchorage last week it would have been hard to miss the Alaska Forum on the Environment. The forum offered more than 80 technical breakout sessions addressing a wide range of subjects, such as climate change, environmental regulations, solid waste, fish and wildlife and, of course, energy. From tribal mining to energy efficiency opportunities, the energy breakout sessions were as diverse as the topics presented at the forum.
On Monday, you could have started your morning off learning about off-shore drilling exploration and after lunch attended a lecture about small scale nuclear and the detrimental effects of coal combustion in Alaska. On Tuesday, the ever so talked about Susitna hydroelectric project was addressed at the same time ‘The Living Building Challenge’ presentation was held. In the afternoon, Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) presenter Sean Skaling gave details on the Commercial Energy Audit Program to a full crowd.
The introduction to the commercial audit program was a great prologue to the “Increase your Bottom Line- Be Energy Smart” video which premiered at the film festival on Friday. The film, created and produced by the Alaska Conservation Alliance, summarized the journey of four diverse Anchorage businesses which have undergone energy efficiency improvements and have reaped the benefits.
The forum was not the only place that featured energy in Alaska this week. The Anchorage Daily News illustrated the success of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s weatherization program that has upgraded nearly 17,000 Alaskan homes which have cut their energy costs by about a third, saving up to $25 million per year. Also, in the news was the ambitious new solar energy project planned for one of downtown Anchorage’s aging office buildings. The proposed 64 panels are estimated to cost approximately $100,000 and supply up to 10% of the building’s electricity needs.
On the other side of spectrum, the retirement of a major Alaskan energy hub was announced. The liquefied natural gas plant, housed in Nikiski, will be shutting down as early as April of this year. The inability to secure an export contract with Japan was a large factor in the Conoco Philips and Marathon Oil decision to shut down the plant. As more energy generation sources go into retirement, Alaskans need to shift to energy efficiency and renewable alternatives.
Lastly, if you wanted to chat about energy after work hours the best place to go last week was to the REAP Forum. On Wednesday night, energy consultant Mark Foster gave an interactive presentation on the economics of Alaska’s energy future. No matter what future path we decide, there are four moving factors that we cannot ignore. First, the price of gas can only be predicted. Fuel costs will undeniably shape our future energy generation. Second, the belief that carbon taxes will be implemented definitely places renewable energy projects on a higher pedestal than oil and coal mining. Third, capital cost risks must be taken into account. Alaskans have shown that they are experts at budgeting for small energy projects, but as projects grow, so too does the difference between the assumed and actual capital costs. Fourth, we must ask the question: what will a dollar today be worth 100 years from now? Our answer will help shape which energy projects we pursue.
Speaking of energy, I think I spent all of mine attending this week’s energy events, I better go recharge for next week!