Railbelt Electric Companies May Undergo Changes 

By Elen Lockyer | KSKA, Anchorage: Alaska’s Railbelt electric companies are the sole users of the state’s main transmission lines that carry energy from the Bradley Lake hydropower project in Homer north to Fairbanks. But changes are coming. Managers of the state-owned portion of the line – called the Alaska Intertie – want to give independent power producers access to the system and some power company officials want to bring the entire grid under a single owner – operator model.

Bradley Lake’s 120 megawatts of electricity transmits through two 20 mile long lines that connect to the state’s main power grid. The power thrums Northward, electrifying Clam Gulch, Kenai, Soldotna and on up to Anchorage, where electricity from Chugach Electric’s gas fired Beluga generation plant ties in. Then power flows through the Matanuska Valley, and on to Healy.   The line’s full length is divided into segments, each owned and operated by a different power company.

 In late December, the Alaska Energy Authority, which owns the Alaska Intertie, the segment that links Willow and Healy, announced a plan to allow independent power producers to access the line. Gene Therriault, AEA’s deputy director, says, the open access move anticipates future need.

“The demand or the search for cheaper sources of power may lead people to link up their demand with a source. And so we just want to stay ahead of the curve, and make sure that we’ve some languguage and a general understanding of how the governments would be operated if in fact somebody came in and made a bid to get someone into the system. “‘

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