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New Technology Could Use Stranded North Slope Gas To Significantly Reduce Alaska’s Heating and Electricity Costs

ANCHORAGE – Tomorrow at noon, CEO and President of the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative Meera Kohler and March Creek Vice-President of Science and Technology Dr. Robert Jacobsen are making a presentation to legislators about how new technology could put most of Alaska on a power grid that uses North Slope gas to significantly reduce heating and electricity costs for Railbelt and rural communities alike.

“With today’s high cost of diesel fuel and concerns about greenhouse gas emissions lending urgency to the need for a comprehensive energy solution for Alaska, a group of industry experts is developing the concept of high-efficiency gas generation at the North Slope and a high voltage direct current transmission system to deliver low cost electricity across the state,” said Kohler.  “The plan incorporates high-efficiency large scale generation and transmission that is being used worldwide to transport large amounts of power over long distances to provide heat and electricity to almost all Alaskans.”

The proposal is to build a plant on the North Slope to convert natural gas into electricity.   The electricity would then be carried through newly developed high-transmission lines that work well over long distances, carrying the electricity to Fairbanks first, and then to the rest of the Railbelt, rural communities around the state, and, finally, if there is excess electricity, a line could be built to the lower 48, where Alaska could sell the electricity to generate revenue for the state. 

“The average household spends 20% of its income on energy costs for the year.  In Alaska’s rural communities, that number skyrockets to nearly 50% for the poorest members of some remote communities.   Most of these costs can be attributed to the cost of diesel, which is the only way to heat these homes at the moment,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage.  “If this proposal works, the North Slope power plant together with the transmission system could energize the entire Rail Belt, power Prudhoe Bay oil field activities, and provide electrical heating to Fairbanks at approximately $.09 per kilowatt hour.   That’s compared to more than $.20 per kilowatt hour right now.”

The cost of building the high voltage transmission line is significantly less in comparison to other large scale projects being proposed.   For example, in one proposal, the power plant on the North Slope would cost about $1.25 billion to build.   The transmission line to distribute power around the state would cost around $1.86 billion and the converter stations needed to get power to the communities would cost around $600 million.  In total, the project would cost an estimated $3.71 billion.  That’s about a third-less than current proposals for a small diameter gasline from the North Slope that would serve only the Railbelt community.

“If this project works, it would finally give Alaskans the energy independence we’ve been seeking for years,” said Senator Wielechowski.  “We would no longer be reliant on expensive diesel to be shipped to our communities.    In addition, if those costs go down, it could make Alaska a more attractive place to do business and create more jobs while diversifying Alaska’s economy.”

The presentation, which is open to members of the public and the media, will take place on Tuesday, August 14th, from noon to 1:15 p.m. in suite 220 at Anchorage Legislative Office, located at 716 West 4th Avenue.

For more information, call Senator Wielechowski at 242-1558 or Michelle Sydeman at 321-1944.

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