Small independent energy producers trying to elbow in on big Alaska utilities
September 12, 2013
By Suzanna Caldwell | The Alaska Dispatch: It’s been 31 years since the Regulatory Commission of Alaska has taken a hard look at the rules of engagement when small, independent power producers try to sell energy to large electric utilities.
One man is hoping to change that and in the process not only encourage development of independent power producers — many of which focus on clean, renewable electricity — but also help Alaskans deal with the soaring cost of energy.
Mike Craft, managing partner of Alaska Environmental Power, LLC and co-owner of the Delta Wind Farm, filed an informal complaint with the regulatory body last month in an effort to force the commission to reconsider its rules governing how utilities negotiate with smaller power producers wanting to connect to the grid.
Craft, a self-described “bulldog,” has tried to work with Golden Valley Electric Association for years to incorporate his operation into the electric grid. He and other small power producers contend the utilities hold all the power when negotiating how much they’ll pay for electricity from independent producers. With no safeguards in place, he argues, small businesses are at the mercy of the utilities. Craft says the goal is to offer a level playing field for independent power producers while diversifying Alaska’s energy sources.
The Regulatory Commission examined Craft’s informal request Wednesday, with the five-member commission voting unanimously to put the issue on the “R docket” – or rule docket. That sets the request up for public comment, with the commission planning to take it up again at the beginning of 2014. At that time, the commission will take a harder, more in-depth look at whether it has the authority to change regulations governing how utilities negotiate with small energy producers.