Alaska: The Renewable Energy State?

Alaska is at an energy crossroads? Especially southcentral Alaska, where the majority of the state’s residents live? Here, local natural gas was traditionally cheap and abundant and powered the area’s electrical grid and heated its homes and businesses for decades.

Now local supplies are dwindling and prices have escalated dramatically. The latest forecasts from Goldman Sachs call for $200/barrel oil in the relatively near future. High fuel prices create an income boost for this oil producing state but also make energy increasingly expensive for Alaskans.

Fortunately, Alaska also possesses tremendous renewable energy resources. The Renewable Energy Atlas, published by the Alaska Energy Authority and the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, identifies an impressive array of wind, tidal, geothermal and hydroelectric resource potential easily sufficient to meet the energy needs of the large state’s rather small population.

Commercial scale renewable energy development has not yet happened, however, and some vested interests seek a continued reliance on fossil fuel-based energy, and possibly even a shift to using more coal. (Coal currently accounts for only a small percentage of power generation in the state.)

The good news is that relentless upward fuel cost pressure makes renewable energy development increasingly economical. NWF and its partners are seizing the opportunity to present a new vision for energy in Alaska: a renewable resource dominated cost-effective generation mix that will turn the country’s biggest oil state into its cleanest energy producer.

Patrick Lavin
National Wildlife Federation, Alaska Office

Published: May 23, 2008