U.S. DOE Releases Sustainable Energy Solutions for Rural Alaska Report

U.S. DOE Releases Sustainable Energy Solutions for Rural Alaska Report
U.S. DOE Releases Sustainable Energy Solutions for Rural Alaska Report (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang)

At the Rural Energy Conference in Fairbanks, AK, today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced 13 recipients of Remote Alaska Communities Energy Efficiency (RACEE) technical assistance, and released its “Sustainable Energy Solutions for Rural Alaska” report.

The RACEE Competition is a $4 million joint effort between DOE’s offices of Indian Energy (IE) and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), focused on significantly accelerating efforts by remote Alaska communities to adopt sustainable energy strategies. During phase one, 64 communities pledged to reduce per-capita energy use by 15 percent by 2020 and were designated as Community Efficiency Champions, incorporating them into a peer network and making them eligible to apply for technical assistance to prepare implementation plans. DOE is providing $600,000 in funding to the Alaska Energy Authority to deliver technical assistance to 13 communities selected in Phase two of the RACEE Competition. Chris Deschene, Director of DOE’s Office of Indian Energy, said,

The U.S. Department of Energy is working with Alaska communities to find solutions to high energy costs. These rural community grants, and our report on sustainable energy for Rural Alaska, are part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to partner with American Tribes and Alaska Native villages to provide clean energy solutions that will save communities money and reduce carbon pollution.

The Alaskan communities selected for this phase of the RACEE awards are: City of Akutan, Village of Chefornak, City of False Pass, City of Galena, Village of Holy Cross, Village of Kiana, Village of Klawock, City of Kotlik, City of Noorvik, City of Port Lions, City of Ruby, City of Sand Point, and the City of Shishmaref.

The 13 selected communities will work with Alaska-based technical assistance providers to develop project plans to meet or exceed their pledged 15% energy reduction. This technical assistance is intended to position the communities to successfully obtain loans or compete for funding to fully implement their plans. Later in 2016 during phase three, the communities selected to receive technical assistance will be eligible to compete for up to $1 million in funding ($3.4 million total) to implement energy saving measures. This opportunity is focused on energy efficiency; however, building integrated renewable technologies and replacing other inefficient forms of power are eligible.

The report, “Sustainable Energy for Rural Alaska,” was sponsored by DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and authored by researchers from the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) and DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). The study was conducted over the course of 18 months and involved in-person interviews with utility staff and community members from more than 30 rural communities located across all parts of Alaska.

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • Encouraging rural utilities and communities to achieve economies of scale. While many utilities in rural Alaska have already joined larger public and private systems, communities and utilities should work with regional organizations in planning, management services, logistics, fuel purchases, and specialized technical services; and to attract and negotiate favorable terms from third-party service providers.
  • Increasing the role of independent power producers and other third-party service providers. More rural utilities should explore avenues for working with independent power producers, which often bring access to new sources of capital, experience, innovative technologies, and an opportunity for lower costs. Third-party service providers have already made a difference in many communities and can help with specialized needs including advanced customer meters, managing budgets, logistics, engineering, bookkeeping, and other services.
  • Encouraging investment in rural workforce development. Workforce programs should be expanded to help rural utilities train and retain staff with expertise in billing and financial operations, grant and loan applications, capital planning, and operation of advanced hybrid renewable power systems.
  • Improving accountability and aligning financial incentives with performance. More customer-focused reliability standards and incentives tied to performance would encourage utility management and community leaders to place a greater emphasis on the cost and quality of service utilities provide.

The report also suggests, among other recommendations, accelerating the testing and adoption of emerging technologies, strengthening the commitment to energy efficiency, and enhancing the role for cost-effective renewable energy.

Download the full report here: http://www.raponline.org/document/download/id/8120

Photo credit Wikipedia commons

About Gordon Smith
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.

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