on Monday night the Assembly gave the OK for Docks & Harbors to begin formulating a plan that would use $20 million of city funds to go toward electrifying two city-own cruise ships docks and redo some of the work at Juneau’s’s already existing electrified dock built in 2001. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City takes step toward dock electrification

“There are many pieces to plugging in”

The City and Borough of Juneau continues to move toward electrifying city-owned cruise ship docks, but it’s an effort that comes with challenges.

“It has really significant consequences for the power system, and many, many decisions have to get made. It’s a tall order,” said Rorie Watt, the CBJ city manager, during a Monday night CBJ Assembly Committee of the Whole meeting.

The committee gave the go-ahead on Monday night for the CBJ Docks and Harbors Board to begin formulating a plan that would use $20 million of city funds to go toward electrifying two city-owned cruise ships docks and redo some of the work at Juneau’s’s already existing electrified dock built in 2001. Electrify cruise ship docks would mean a decrease in emissions release by cruise ships docked in Juneau as the ships would use the electric power provided through the dock rather than sulfur fuels to maintain its power.

The $20 million will come in the form of revenue bonds the city would take on, and the ordinance that would give the go-ahead for the funding is likely to hit the Assembly agenda sometime in January Watt said.

The city allotment, along with the city’s plan to continue pursuing grants, would fund electrifying the Alaska Steamship Dock across from Marine Park downtown, start preliminary electrification construction for the Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal and buy a load tap changer transformer for the privately owned electrified Franklin Street Dock that is needed to be replaced.

Watt described revenue bonds as debt that the city would take that is backed by a renewable revenue stream, in this case, the city is considering the use of cruise ship passengers fees to act as the renewable revenue stream.

Docks and Harbor port director Carl Uchytil said because the infrastructure on Franklin Street Dock is 21 years old and technology has advanced dramatically in the past two decades, the replacement of the load tap changer transformer “needs to be done for city-owned docs before we can transition,” he said, “It would allow for easier accessibility to transfer power and be on shore power longer.”

He said without the replacement, it will make it virtually impossible to successfully provide shore power at the additional planned docks in Juneau. He also provided a memo which said the the availability of power as a possible concern as the Alaska Electric Light and Power projects it will only be capable of offering electrical energy to the CBJ cruise ship docks 25% of the time it is requested.

“There are many pieces to plugging in,” said Mayor Beth Weldon.

Currently, the entire Princess Cruises fleet is shore power equipped and its sister line Holland America Line is currently in the process of transitioning all its ships Uchytil said.

Along with the planning to allot $20 million of city funding, Docks and Harbors will continue to seek funding from grants, an effort that’s so far been unsuccessful.

The Docks and Harbors board applied for multiple $25 million federal grants apart from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that if awarded would also be met by a $4.9 million local match from the Assembly.

But, so far, the Docks & Harbors application for a $25 million grant for the fiscal year of 2021 was denied, and two other $25 million applications are still pending.

Watt said this is another step toward the long but important process of electrifying Juneau’s docks and move toward creating a more sustainable waterfront.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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