New Bills Seek Savings for Electricity Along Railbelt
SB105 and HB187 would create the Railbelt Electric Transmission Authority
JUNEAU-Two bills have been introduced this week to help reduce electricity costs for a majority of Alaskans by creating the Railbelt Electrical Transmission Authority (RETA) to manage electrical transmission along the Railbelt. The Railbelt is Alaska’s largest interconnected electric transmission area and home to the largest population centers: from Fairbanks in the north through the Mat-Su Borough, Anchorage, Seward and Homer in the south.
The House Special Committee on Energy, co-chaired by Representatives Liz Vazquez, R-Anchorage, and Jim Colver, R-Palmer introduced House Bill 187 on Friday, while Senator Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, introduced its companion bill, Senate Bill 105, in the Senate on Saturday.
“Historically, we have had three generation and transmission (G&T) utilities along the Railbelt which had regional responsibility and voluntary compliance,” said Senator McGuire. “Now we have five G&T utilities, each with their own regional challenges that cannot be resolved with the current structure. We need to find a way to establish predictable, reliable and affordable economic dispatch across the Railbelt with open access policies for independent power producers. There are tremendous savings possible for the consumer with a unified transmission system.”
“Delivering affordable energy efficiently is absolutely crucial for Alaskan families and for our state’s economic development – and our Railbelt grid needs to be up to the task,” said Representative Liz Vazquez, R-Anchorage. “As a former utility board member, I’ve seen this problem first-hand, and we’ve been working very hard this session to start developing a long-term solution. These bills are the first step in solving the problem and bringing affordable energy efficiently to the Railbelt.”
The legislation proposes the Railbelt Transmission Authority would be a division of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) which is currently the agency that oversees and regulates Alaska’s utilities. Several similar concepts have been proposed by various utilities in recent years including the Alaska Railbelt Cooperative Transmission and Electric Company (ARCTEC) and Transco (a Railbelt transmission company). Though ownership structures differ in all three proposals each have similar goals: economic dispatch of electricity across the Railbelt, open and non-discriminatory access, regional planning of future transmission infrastructure and reduced end-user costs.
“It is important to state that this bill is a starting point,” said Representative Colver. “We are starting a conversation that I hope results in a more efficient use of our power generation and transmission systems on the Railbelt. Our goal is to lower the costs of energy to consumers. I look forward to working with the RCA and engaging with all stakeholders.”
The sponsors of the legislation do not plan on advancing the bill during the current legislative session, but plan to hold meetings over the interim to further develop the plan in preparation for next January.