Bipartisan infrastructure bill helps Alaska toward ‘brighter’ future

Energy is the backbone of Alaska’s economy.

  • Friday, November 19, 2021 4:56pm
  • Opinion

By Duff Mitchell

Alaska’s prosperity, energy and economic future relies heavily on all walks of life and “can do” attitudes, regardless of political affiliation, coming together to make investments in new infrastructure — transforming us to a more renewable, sustainable energy future here in Juneau, throughout the state and across the country. Here in Alaska, there is unprecedented opportunity.

I am grateful for the leadership and vision of our congressional delegation – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young – for working together in support of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This indispensable legislation brings historic levels in new infrastructure investment to Alaska while implementing a series of commonsense permitting and regulatory reforms to streamline construction, lower regulatory barriers to entry, and allow infrastructure dollars to stretch further than ever before.

Our delegation’s support for infrastructure also includes investments and reforms for renewable energy technologies – vehicle electrification, electric ferries and transmission assistance, and more – to advance Alaska community-focused projects in and across rural and Southeast Alaska. This legislation includes support for hydropower, geothermal, wind, and requisite transmission to help lower energy costs and improve our quality of life.

Greater infrastructure investments in renewable energy resources are far more than just strategic economic decisions; they’re existential to our communities and collective future prosperity. The investments and reforms included in the infrastructure legislation will help Alaska lower its energy costs, strengthen our energy grids , and support local industries and businesses that provide good paying jobs for Alaskan families. Energy drives all Alaska industries from the seafood industry and tourism to mining and transportation—and locally produced clean energy makes our communities more vibrant places to live, work, and play and position us for the future.

Having worked on several beneficial electrification projects across Juneau—and through my role at Juneau Hydropower—I firmly believe in the transformative power of renewable and clean energy in Alaska. Specifically, the role renewable energy will serve in creating family-wage jobs, eliminating emissions, and creating competitive power costs while also enabling us to collectively remove our reliance on foreign nations, their oil, and their policies. By contrast, Alaskans place safeguards and values on our resources and environment.

Alaskans and our Congressional delegation share an Alaska renewable energy development vision. On the local level, this collective vision has been a driving factor in a range of local clean energy initiatives, including the conversion and continued mass adoption of electric transportation for personal vehicles, business vehicles, and public transportation. Now comes dock electrification and mass adoption of air source heat pumps, and the beginning of future hybrid-electric ferries. British Columbia and Washington already have them. Locally, the private development of Juneau District Heating and the hydropower facility at Sweetheart Lake just south of the city provides the reliability and sustainability for our renewable energy current and future needs. Displacement of fossil fuels for locally produced, lower-cost, and sustainable clean energy is our collective future.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill negotiated with Senator Murkowski and now passed and signed into law will help advance Alaska’s role in securing American energy independence through our abundant but often untapped renewable energy resources. These efforts can help improve the quality of life for thousands of Alaskans by lowering energy costs and developing economic opportunities for communities traditionally powered by costly diesel fuel for too long.

Energy is the backbone of Alaska’s economy. By investing in and developing our renewable energy resources to the fullest extent possible, we are building a better future now and for our children’s grandchildren. The recent passage of the federal infrastructure package is a milestone achievement and should be recognized as a much needed down payment towards advancing Alaska and the America’s vital infrastructure needs. But more is needed and required as we strategically transition our focus towards a more sustainable and energy independent nation. By investing in new 21st Century American infrastructure, we give ourselves the tools and resources to increase economic competitiveness, build stronger, more robust, and resilient communities, and creating good-paying jobs to power a bright Alaska future.

• Duff Mitchell is the managing director of Juneau Hydropower, executive director of Juneau District Heating, executive director of the Alaska Independent Power Producers Association and a local veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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