Oddly, many public buildings have not undergone energy retrofits 

By Tim Bradner | Anchorage Daily News: We’re a bit spoiled in Southcentral Alaska when it comes to energy. Home heating and electricity, fueled mainly with gas, are still cheap compared with other parts of the state. In Fairbanks, where fuel oil is used, winter heating bills rival mortgage payments.

In rural Alaska, fuel oil is even more pricey. Low-income families can spent up to 40 percent of their disposable income on energy.

We’re making some headway, however. The quickest and easiest way to reduce heating bills is to better insulate homes, and an energy efficiency and weatherization program run by Alaska Housing Finance Corp., the state housing corporation, as well as other agencies, is a success.

Here are examples. In Northwest Alaska, NANA Regional Corp., the Denali Commission and RuralCap are well along in “EnergyWise,” a community energy conservation program. Small village residents can see fuel use drop by as much as 30 percent after home retrofits, I’m told.

In Juneau, residents at Villa Gastineau, a condominium, worked together to retrofit their building and achieved a 46 percent reduction of use of oil for heating.

Statewide, 32,000 residents have been retrofit so far, and the estimated fuel savings is estimated at almost half a million barrels per year. So far the state has invested $560 million in home weatherization and the residential efficiency rebate program.

It comes as some surprise, therefore, that many public building owners, like school districts, municipalities, even state agencies, haven’t caught onto this. We’re all alarmed at the continuing rise of government operating costs, and we know fuel costs drive a lot of this, particularly in rural Alaska. Schools, for example, spent about $90 million per year for fuel.

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