By Dave Donaldson
Governor Parnell tomorrow will sign into law two bills that were written to set the state on a course of meeting its own energy needs. Although, the state has a long way to go to reach its potential, the plans still give targets.
One of the bills the governor is ready to sign establishes a state energy policy – mostly by setting a goal of using renewable sources to generate half the state’s energy needs by the year 2025 — and by reducing per capita consumption by fifteen percent by 2020.
The other bill — called the Omnibus Energy Bill — among many other things, gives bonding authority to allow upgrades to state-owned buildings, thus reducing their energy consumption.
Chris Rose, the executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, says the two bills complement each other – with the emphasis on Alaskans taking care of their own needs.
For so long, we’ve been developing energy resources primarily for export, not really thinking. How are Alaskans going to be able to afford energy that they need to light their homes and heat their businesses. So there’s a real emphasis on making sure that we are doing these things for Alaskans in the future.
Rose says some of the ideas that came from a series of committee hearings around the state last summer are not included, but there’s time to deal with such things as renewable energy production tax credits and other more specific goals.
However, he says the state will have some quick catch-up work to avoid falling further behind. While signing the bills, the governor vetoed some of the money the legislature wanted to spend to keep the work going. The administration had asked for $25-million for renewable energy projects next year. And that is all he allowed – striking out the legislature’s $50-million appropriation for forty six renewable energy projects that had already been approved by the administration.
Rose says those parts of the country who know where they’re going and have the ability to get there are going to stabilize their prices and help their economies.
But we’re going to have to invest a lot more. There’s been no energy technology I know of that has ever been developed without government support. So we need to continue to have that element of government support – which we have been demonstrating with this renewable energy grant fund is leveraging a lot of other matching money, whether it be from federal sources or the private sector.
The administration is defending those vetoes, however, saying the projects weren’t rejected. Director of Management and Budget Karen Rehfeld says there’s $150-million in the Renewable Energy Fund set up two years ago, although the Energy Authority has only been able to spend about $25- million during that time.
I think things are on track. And the governor just felt that given where we are – and we have a hundred fifty million dollars now in the fund for these projects, certainly we’ll be coming back around and revisiting that appropriation in the next cycle.
Rose doesn’t doubt that. However, he says many of the projects the governor vetoed carried with them offers of matching grants – from the private sector and from the federal government. The $25-million vetoed had a street value of nearly $70-million.