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Senate Passes Landmark Omnibus Energy Bill

JUNEAU - The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 220 April 10, the Alaska Sustainable Energy Act, which paves the way for lower energy costs, greater energy efficiency, and increased use of renewable energy in Alaska.

"This bill will help Alaskan families, businesses, schools, and communities to cut their energy costs and find more sustainable ways of meeting their energy needs," said Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, co-chair of the Resources Committee.  "It lays the foundation for Alaska to become a global leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and tasks the state with leading by example."

"Affordable energy is the keystone of our economy," said Senator Lesil McGuire, co-chair of the Resources Committee and chair of the Senate Special Committee on Energy. "Finding new and lower cost ways to meet our energy needs will make us all stronger. That's why we drafted the Alaska Sustainable Energy Act -- to provide the tools Alaska needs to move towards a more competitive and sustainable future."

The Alaska Sustainable Energy Act includes a broad range of policy tools designed to attract investment in Alaska's energy sector and stimulate the economy. They include: 

·         Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund: Senate Bill 220 creates a revolving loan program to fund energy efficiency improvements in public buildings. School districts, municipalities and state government will have access to the funds needed to upgrade their facilities. Based on what we have seen from the State's Weatherization and Home Energy Rebate programs, this fund will foster 1,500 to 2,000 jobs in the construction industry in Alaska.  SB 220 authorizes the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to issue $250 million in bonds to capitalize this critical new loan fund. 

·         Help for Alaskan Families When Fuel Prices Soar: SB 220 links benefits from the state's Heating Assistance Program to the price of oil, providing additional assistance to low-income families when fuel prices are high, Alaskans need help the most, and the state enjoys significant surpluses. This program is a supplement to the federal Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

·         Coordinate and Consolidate State Energy Programs: SB 220 asks the Governor to evaluate how best to coordinate the State's energy departments and programs in order to avoid duplication of efforts. The Governor is directed to provide a plan to the legislature by January of 2011.

·         Nuclear Energy: SB 220 levels the playing field for nuclear energy projects in Alaska, ensuring that as new technologies are developed, Alaska can consider them alongside other options.  It also enables proponents of small-scale nuclear energy projects to apply for funding from the state's Power Project Fund.

·         Southeast Energy Fund: SB 220 expands the purposes for which this fund may be used, providing an improved mechanism for constructing generation and transmission projects in Southeast Alaska.  Many communities in the region are still powered by high-cost diesel systems, despite the region's enormous hydropower potential.   

Emerging Energy Technology Fund (EETF): With the high cost of energy in many of our communities, Alaska provides a unique opportunity for innovation. The Alaska Sustainable Energy Act would create a fund that would provide grants for testing energy technologies in Alaska. The EETF would foster innovation and enable Alaskans to develop solutions to our energy challenges in Alaska; creating high-tech jobs and spurring investment in our economy. Having passed the Senate, SB 220 moves to the House for its consideration.

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