Alaska Electric Light and Power Company Lemon Creek operations center in Juneau on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Alaska Electric Light and Power Company Lemon Creek operations center in Juneau on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Electric rates about to rise

Change is due to lack of rainfall

The dry, sunny summer is coming back to bite Juneau electricity users.

Due to the low amounts of rain in the summer and fall, Alaska Electric Light & Power announced Monday, electric rates will rise temporarily. AEL&P uses hydroelectric power, meaning the company’s ability to provide reliable and affordable energy is dependent on rainfall.

For the average residential customer, AEL&P estimates the increase will be about $13.62 per month starting with January bills. AEL&P projects the bill increase will be in effect through June 2019. It will show up on a customer’s bill under the “Cost of Power Adjustment” line item.

Years ago, AEL&P entered into an agreement with Greens Creek Mine, Princess Cruise Lines and customers with multiple heating systems to have them buy energy when surplus water is available. AEL&P refers to these customers as “interruptible” because the company can disconnect them when water levels are low, according to the AEL&P press release.

The money that these customers pay for surplus energy is used to offset the cost of electricity for other customers, the release states. With reservoir levels lower than usual this year, AEL&P isn’t producing enough extra power to sell it to these customers.

This is the first time in five years that AEL&P has fully interrupted the “interruptible” customers. Over those five years, this arrangement has reduced the average electricity customer’s monthly bill by $29.50, according to AEL&P.

In a statement to the Empire, Hecla Greens Creek Manager of Government and Community Relations Mike Satre said this is not new news to them.

“Due to AEL&P’s concerns with the water levels, Greens Creek has been interrupted from line power since September,” Satre said. “We have always maintained the ability to power our operations through on-site diesel generators so there has been no impact to our production.”

Satre said everybody wins in the arrangement, as it’s cheaper for Greens Creek, it’s cheaper for residential customers and it minimizes the mine’s carbon footprint.

City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Carole Triem said she sees the news as more than just a few extra dollars per month. During her campaign for Assembly this fall, Triem expressed the hope for the city to develop a plan to adjust to the effects of climate change in Southeast.

She’s continued to advocate for it in her time on the Assembly, and said via text message that she hopes news such as this spurs people to take action.

“This highlights the need for CBJ to have a Climate Change Mitigation Plan,” Triem said. “The impacts from climate change will be far broader than just a lack of snow. Juneau needs to prepare for these changes before they turn into crises.”

Those looking to reduce their energy usage or ask other questions to AEL&P staff members can call 780-2222.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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