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  6.  | Op Ed: Chugach Electric Association’s Progress on Clean Energy Goals

Op Ed: Chugach Electric Association’s Progress on Clean Energy Goals

Apr 21, 2023 | Energy, News

By: Bettina Chastain and Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller, CEO, Chugach Electric Association

Chugach Electric Association

The energy transition has a greater sense of urgency in Southcentral Alaska than almost anywhere else in the nation.

Renewables in the Railbelt

Today the Railbelt system—the interconnected grid that stretches from Homer to Fairbanks—is powered by approximately 85 percent fossil fuels and 15 percent renewables. At Chugach Electric Association, we recognize that we must diversify our energy resources to include new renewable generation that complements our dwindling natural gas resources to maintain reliable, economical, and low-carbon power for a sustainable future. We are aggressively pursuing new clean energy projects in a manner that allows us to maintain the lowest rates on the Railbelt, supported by new technologies that enhance the potential of our existing assets to balance, or integrate, variable clean energy resources.

Today, Chugach’s annual energy mix is about 82 percent natural gas, 15 percent hydro, and 3 percent wind, plus 0.1 percent solar we buy back from our members. This is a dynamic mix and varies by the hour, season, and year. By diversifying our sources of energy, we can achieve long-term energy security by reducing our dependence on any single resource. A reliable and sustainable energy grid can be compared to a foundation with multiple supports working together to share the load. We must expand our generation mix to include proven technologies such as hydro, wind, and solar energy. Together with our efficient natural gas generators, energy storage technologies, and modern control systems, we can diversify our energy mix and provide reliable power when it is needed throughout the year.

Bettina Chastain, Board Chair, Chugach Electric Association

Chugach Electric Association

Meaningful Progress

Chugach has made meaningful progress integrating variable clean energy with firm power from natural gas and hydro generators.

  • With support from the Alaska Energy Authority and the Emerging Energy Technology Fund, Chugach deployed a hybrid flywheel and battery energy storage system to help integrate power from the Fire Island Wind project. This system has successfully helped Chugach integrate the variable wind resource and has informed our strategy to scale this concept to enable larger wind and solar projects.

 

  • In 2021, we initiated a request for proposals for renewable energy projects that could provide 100,000 megawatt-hours, or approximately 5 percent of our annual energy need. In the fall of 2022, we advanced two proposed utility-scale projects (one wind, one solar) and initiated feasibility studies. If economically viable without negatively impacting rates, these renewable projects together may exceed our original goal and provide nearly 20 percent of our annual energy—pushing Chugach to almost 40 percent renewables.

 

  • In 2021, Chugach requested and received approval from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to more than triple our allowance for net metering which provides value for renewable energy generated by members with small-scale solar and wind. In 2022, 781 Chugach members participated in the net metering program.

 

  • In 2022, the Chugach Board of Directors added decarbonization goals to our Strategic Plan which include reducing our carbon intensity by at least 35 percent by 2030 and at least 50 percent by 2040, using 2012 as the baseline year without a material negative impact on rates.
Current Issue

Alaska Business February 2024 Cover

February 2024

Integrating large clean energy resources requires continued innovation and a modernized grid to maximize potential benefits. Chugach is pursuing proven technologies that can improve reliability and quality of service to our members, such as purchasing a large Tesla Megapack battery energy storage system that will be installed in Anchorage in 2024. Chugach is also evaluating and pursuing funding opportunities from the U.S. Department of Energy for innovative long-duration energy storage, modern protection and control systems, carbon capture technology, and others. Partnerships with other utilities, Alaska Native Corporations, the State of Alaska, and other organizations will enhance the benefit of these technological advancements for all Alaskans.

Our dynamic energy landscape mandates swift and decisive action that is just and reasonable for our members. Our energy transition must also support our mission of providing safe, reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy. We will continue to work towards diversifying our energy resources, while maximizing the value of our existing investments and maintaining reliable service to our members. Chugach is proud to innovate and invest in clean energy and we are committed to our vision of responsibly developing energy resources for a clean, sustainable future for Alaska.

Arthur Miller is the CEO of Chugach Electric Association. Bettina Chastain is the Board Chair of  Chugach Electric Association.

Alaska Business February 2024 cover
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In the February 2024 issue of Alaska Business, we engineered a special section that inspects the many ways architecture and engineering enrich our lives, from creating beautiful and functional spaces to crafting functional and safe transportation corridors. In addition to the built world in which we live, this issue celebrates small businesses and the many functions they provide, whether they're developing tools in the healthcare industry or opening new dining locations.

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