Opinion: We need more information on meeting growing power needs

More renewable energy could put Juneau on the map as a sustainable community.

  • By Andy Romanoff
  • Monday, March 1, 2021 12:17pm
  • Opinion

There appears to be a contradiction at the heart of the February 23 Juneau Empire article, “In Juneau, Going Green Focuses on Power Usage.”

The opening asserts that “clean energy in Juneau is less about production and more about consumption.” However, toward the conclusion of the article, AEL&P is reported to have said it would need additional hydrocapacity in order to electrify the Norwegian Cruise Line’s planned dock. It seems, then, that meeting Juneau’s clean energy goals includes a matter of production.

Our community needs more information on how AEL&P plans to meet accelerating power needs over the coming years. Big electrical capacity projects like a Northern Intertie with Skagway and Haines, mine electrification and dock electrification will all have huge benefits for Juneau and the region. The community deserves to understand power producers’ options, including those of the private energy developer, Juneau Hydropower, Inc. Many wonder what the proposed JHI Sweetheart hydro project would add and ask why there is so little discussion of this project. It seems a potentially valuable way to address shortfalls of electricity for Greens Creek, ship docks, and other ‘non-firm customers’, those electricity users who must burn diesel when there is concern about the current system’s capacity.

If local, national, and global electrification trends continue along their present trajectories, electricity demand will surely grow. Juneau residents deserve to understand how AEL&P intends, over the long term, to meet its obligation to serve its customers, and to assist the community in meeting its renewable energy goals. And residents deserve a place at the table in this planning process.

The Biden administration’s “all-in-on-climate” approach creates an additional need for a deeper understanding of Juneau’s energy future. It is likely to open up a diversity of opportunities for federal support for cities and states with clean energy plans. Juneau is ahead of the curve when it comes to clean energy and we should position ourselves to take advantage of supportive Federal renewable energy policies. Our clean hydropower can lead to reduced heating and transportation costs, support new businesses and jobs, and put Juneau on the map as a sustainable community.

• Andy is a 30-year Juneau resident and a board member of Juneau’s renewable energy education and advocacy non-profit, Renewable Juneau.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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