Energy Security Task Force plan gets negative feedback in hearing
Concerns include ‘doubling-down on fossil fuels,' not enough ‘cost comparison, risk analysis or any analysis’
Members of the state’s Energy Security Task Force ran into a buzzsaw of criticism during a public hearing Tuesday on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s plan that supports more natural gas development and mandates cutting the cost of electricity to 10 cents per kilowatt hour.
Tuesday’s public hearing on the task force’s latest draft of a statewide energy master plan included criticism by environmentally minded Alaskans like Rebecca Siegel, of Fairbanks. Siegel says the plan has evolved into a sales pitch for a liquid natural gas or LNG pipeline, instead of a blueprint for transitioning to alternative energy sources like wind, solar and hydro.
“My big concern about this report is the emphasis on the AKLNG project, and the North Slope natural gas bullet line,” she said.
The AKLNG line is estimated to cost more than $40 billion, and the smaller bullet line to Southcentral likely would cost at least $9 billion. Siegel said building either of those gas lines wouldn’t lower the cost of heating homes and businesses, at least in the short-term.
“This long-term lock-in is more than doubling-down on fossil fuels,” she said, “and will absolutely divert Alaska from diversified electricity generation at a time when we simply cannot afford that distraction.”
Others who spoke during the public hearing -- including some who favored continued use of fossil fuels -- focused on what they said were faulty economic assumptions in the most recent draft plan issued Oct. 20.
“The measures outlined in the master plan will neither lower the cost nor add energy security for Alaskans, due to the Cook Inlet being shut down and available resources like coal being ignored,” says Ken Huckeba, who lives in Wasilla. He especially dislikes using federal funding from legislation passed by Congress in 2021 and ‘22 that was intended to reinvigorate the economy after the pandemic nearly brought it to its knees.
“This master plan appears to be an implementation plan of the Green New Deal, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, to seek the printed money and inflation-causing federal control policy contained in the Infrastructure and Jobs Act,” he said.
Kassie Andrews pointed to a lack of due diligence on the plan’s claims and assumptions.
“The entire premise of this report is to provide information on how Alaska will get to 10 cents a kilowatt hour,” she said. “And it is completely devoid of cost analysis, cost comparison, risk analysis – or any analysis, really.”
Dunleavy said in a February administrative order that the task force will "develop a comprehensive statewide energy plan that will evaluate energy generation, distribution and transmission for the State of Alaska and its communities.”
The task force is chaired by Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom and co-chaired by Alaska Energy Authority Executive Director Curtis Thayer and Cordova Electric Cooperative CEO Clay Koplin.
The plan is intended to include proposals for diversifying energy sources and improving electrical-generation and transmission facilities, like the Railbelt system, to make them more efficient and resilient.
One provision of the plan suggests conveying utility assets like power transmission lines and battery storage systems to the Alaska Energy Authority to enable better coordination of Railbelt electricity transmission. But Chugach Electric Vice President and General Counsel Matthew Clarkson expressed doubts about that.
“Chugach is not in a position to affirmatively support such a recommendation,” he said, “and would likely oppose any unprecedented state action to condemn its private utility business assets for such a purpose.”
Clarkson commended Gov. Mike Dunleavy for proposing the plan and task force members for their deep-dive study on what he called a “truncated timeline.” That’s a reference to Dunleavy’s direction to the task force to submit a final plan by Dec. 1.
The deadline to comment on the draft plan is 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 30. Public comments on the plan may be submitted and sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The task force’s next meeting is Tuesday, in Anchorage.
Correction: This story has been revised to clarify that the Energy Security Task Force is chaired by Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom and co-chairs Alaska Energy Authority Executive Director Curtis Thayer and Cordova Electric Cooperative CEO Clay Koplin.