Alaska renewable energy advocate expects green bank bill to pass next session

three windmills on top of a hill at sunset
Windmills are easily visible from Kodiak’s road system. The island gets nearly 100% of its electricity from renewable energy. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Two bills to advance renewable energy in Alaska stalled in the state Legislature this year, but an alternative energy advocate thinks they have a good chance of becoming law in 2024.

One bill would create a state green bank to help finance projects like rooftop solar. Chris Rose is executive director of Renewable Energy Alaska Project, or REAP, and he explained the need for a green bank by comparing renewables to cars in the Henry Ford days.

“You couldn’t get a car loan the day cars were invented. Banks had to figure out what the risk profile of this contraption called a car was before they would decide to loan money for it,” Rose said. “Well, with green financing, the banks have not had a lot of experience in what the risk profile is for lending somebody some money to make their home more energy efficient, or to put solar panels on their house.”

Rose said there is general agreement in the Legislature on the merits of a green bank, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy has introduced the bill twice.

“Yeah, I think the green bank bill will pass next session, I don’t think there’s a lot of concern about it. Conceptually, I think people understand that what a fund like this could do is provide affordable loans to Alaskans,” Rose said.

The second bill would create a renewable portfolio standard. It would mandate that utilities get a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar. Rose sees this as the best way to fill the waning supply of natural gas in Southcentral Alaska, and prevent skyrocketing utility bills.

“The utility managers are all talking about importing liquefied natural gas to fill the gap that we’re going to see just in about three or four years in Cook Inlet natural gas,” Rose said. “Importing LNG is going to be 40, 50, 60% more expensive than the price of gas now.”

Wind and solar, on the other hand, are now the cheapest sources of power and can be built relatively quickly, Rose said. He’s optimistic that the renewable portfolio bill will also make it to the governor’s desk next year.

Rose hopes the committee chairs continue hearings on the bills this summer, but hasn’t heard any update on that yet.

Michael Fanelli reported on economics and hosted the statewide morning news at Alaska Public Media. 

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