Governor Signs Omnibus Energy Bill Into Law
Wednesday, June 16, 2010, Anchorage - The Governor signed Senate Bill 220, the Alaska Sustainable Energy Act, into law today, paving 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 Senate 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."
"Alaskans want to live and work where energy is available, reliable and affordable and with SB 220, Alaska takes a big step forward," said Senator Lesil McGuire, co-chair of the Resources Committee and chair of the Senate Special Committee on Energy. "Energy is the keystone of our economy and SB 220 will drive innovation and high-tech investment in Alaska. 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, state government, and the University of Alaska will have access to low-interest loans to upgrade their facilities. Based on observations of the State's Weatherization and Home Energy Rebate programs, this fund could 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 a significant surplus. This program is a supplement to the federal Low-Income Heating Assistance Program.
Loans for Alaskan Businesses: SB 220 revitalizes the old Alternative Energy Loan Program within the Department of Commerce and Economic Development. The new program would provide loans up to $50,000 to businesses for energy efficiency and alternative energy upgrades. 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.
Educating Alaskans on Low-Cost Ways to Save Energy: SB 220 provides new authority to the Alaska Energy Authority to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and alternative energy through training and public education. The Authority plans to kick off a public education campaign in the coming year.
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: With the high cost of energy in many of our communities, Alaska provides a unique opportunity for innovation. The Alaska Sustainable Energy Act creates a fund to provide grants for testing energy technologies in Alaska. This fund will foster innovation and enable Alaskans to develop solutions to our energy challenges; create high-tech jobs and spur investment in our economy.
Leading by Example: SB 220 requires the state to retrofit at least 25% of the largest state buildings by 2020 to reduce energy costs. The Department of Transportation and Public facilities has already begun to upgrade those buildings most in need. While annual saving for the first 8 buildings was expected to be $278,000 a year, savings have averaged $497,000, making this new requirement a significant money-saver for the state. Coordinate and Consolidate State Energy Programs: SB 220 tasks the Governor with evaluating 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.
Senators McGuire and Wielechowski worked closely with their counterparts on the House Energy Committee, Co-chairs Bryce Edgmon and Charisse Millett, who crafted a complementary state energy policy, HB 306, also signed into law today.
"Their vision and commitment to proving more affordable and sustainable energy for Alaskans helped to lead the way for us all," the co-chairs said.