Activists rally for more renewable energy at GVEA's annual meeting
Rally for Renewables to commend co-op for carbon emission cuts, but activists say ‘That's really not enough’
A Fairbanks-based environmental group will hold a rally this afternoon just before Golden Valley Electric Association’s annual meeting at Lathrop High School’s Hering Auditorium. The Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition plans to commend Golden Valley for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and urge it to do more.
There’s a stereotype in the minds of many people that environmental organizations’ main tactic to get their message across is to stage loud and often boisterous protests. But that’s not what members of the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition have planned for their Rally for Renewables that begins at 5:30 p.m. just outside Hering Auditorium, where Golden Valley Electric Association will hold its annual meeting.
“The rally will be a really positive, fun time for our community to come together,” says coalition spokesperson Kenzley Defler. “And we’re just really hoping to show widespread community support for renewable energy.”
Defler says her organization is staging the rally to show appreciation for Golden Valley’s efforts in recent years to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by weaning itself away from burning fossil fuels to generate power. Those include “the Eva Creek Wind Farm, a solar demonstration projects, she said, “and Golden Valley has adopted a carbon-reduction goal.”
Defler says renewable-energy supporters also commend Golden Valley for measures to further de-carbonize that are outlined in a Strategic Generation Plan the co-op’s board adopted last year. She says that should include a “commitment to develop another large-scale wind project, commitment to upgrade their battery-energy storage system for renewables, and their commitment to close down the Healy 2 coal-fueled plant and transition that to renewables.”
Golden Valley spokesperson Meadow Bailey says the rally isn’t part of the annual meeting. But she says the co-op welcomes their expression of support for its efforts to bring more renewables online.
“We’re very appreciative that they’re willing to be involved and they’re offering some kudos, and (that) they’re appreciative of the direction things are going,” she said in an interview Wednesday..
“We’re actually pretty progressive as far as renewables go,” she added. “We have the first large-scale solar farm. We have the first wind farm in Alaska …”
Bailey says Golden Valley now is preparing to request proposals for a larger-scale wind-power integration capability.
Defler says rally organizers hope to send a message to Golden Valley to keep up the good work -- and kick it up a notch. She said that’ll include encouraging the co-op to set its sights higher on a 2019 pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent, based on 2012 levels, by the end of the decade.
“That is really not enough,” she said. “So we would love to see a higher carbon-reduction goal and tangible plans of how to reach that with renewable energy.”
Rally participants also will urge Golden Valley to replace the Healy 2 coal-fired power plant’s 50-megawatt output with renewable energy. They’ll also ask co-op leadership to enable more participation in the Community Solar Program, especially for its working-class members.
Defler says the climate action coalition also will urge the co-op to support legislation requiring Railbelt utilities to set goals for integrating more renewable energy into the grid.
“We are hoping that the board of directors will support this,” she said in an interview Wednesday.
Bailey says that topic isn’t on the meeting agenda, because the legislation to establish the so-called the Renewable Portfolio Standard is still in play. Members of the state House Energy Committee will consider the measurein a hearing later this morning. But she says there’ll be a lot of other things to talk about at tonight’s meeting -- both face-to-face and online.
“Due to COVID, the past three years we’ve been meeting virtually only,” she said. “And so this year, we will be meeting in person. The meeting will also be streamed live via YouTube.”
Bailey says Golden Valley will celebrate being able to finally meet with members in-person again with a sort of picnic and family-fun event outside Hering Auditorium. That event will begin at 5, and the annual meeting will follow at 6:30.