What do the EPA’s new carbon rules mean for Alaska? 

By Liz Ruskin | APRN: Alaska utilities and policymakers are puzzling over President Obama’s proposal to cut carbon pollution from power plants and what the rules would mean for Alaska. Around the country, the proposal is viewed as a push to get states to clean up their coal plants, but that may not be the easiest way for Alaska to meet its target.

Look around the state for big carbon dioxide emitters and it’s easy to point the finger at Fairbanks. Southeast Alaska is largely dependent on hydropower and Southcentral has natural gas. But in Fairbanks and other parts of the Interior, about a third of the electricity comes from coal. Cory Borgeson, CEO of Golden Valley Electric Association told KUAC this week its rate-payers should expect higher bills if it has to install new emission controls.

“You go in and put in additional controls to take out CO2, or limit those emissions, and – it’s just hard to speculate on the cost,” Borgeson said. “But, ultimately, it’s a big cost.”

If the rules go into effect, Alaska would have to cut carbon emissions from power production 26 percent by 2030. But Fairbanks isn’t in this alone. The state would have to develop a plan to meet its carbon target, and Chris Rose, executive director of Renewable Energy Alaska Project, says clamping down on smokestacks is just one option.

“There are tremendous opportunities both on the efficiency and the generation sector for electricity that would be applicable to a state implementation plan,” Rose said.

The EPA target is a reduction in carbon intensity, the rate of carbon production per megawatt of power, not the amount of emissions. Without touching Fairbanks’s coal plants, Alaska, Rose says, could lower its carbon intensity by adding more hydro or wind power, or maybe with geothermal and tidal generation. The regulations also give credit for cutting demand. Rose says the state’s ongoing initiative to make buildings more energy efficient will help.

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