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Railbelt Electricity Umbrella Organization Submits Application to Regulators

Mar 31, 2022 | Energy, News

Electric power line


Electric utilities and independent power producers throughout Alaska’s Railbelt are already interconnected by wires. An Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) would tie them together more closely.

Years in the Making

The Railbelt Reliability Council (RRC) includes electricity stakeholders, state agencies, consumer and environmental advocates, and independent members from Homer to Fairbanks. If the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) certifies the council as the regional ERO, the RRC will establish and enforce clear rules of reliable operation for all entities connected to the electrical network and protect the system against cyber-attacks, natural disasters, and other threats. The RRC will also conduct a public process for the entire Railbelt to produce an integrated resource plan to ensure the system’s evolving infrastructure needs are contemplated on a regional basis.

The legislature created the requirement to form an ERO for the Railbelt by enacting Senate Bill 123 in 2020. The RRC Implementation Committee, an informal group of volunteers, initially began work in July 2020. The committee incorporated the RRC, and the new corporation met for the first time on March 14 to install board members, elect officers, and adopt corporate documents. On March 23, the RRC voted to approve and submit its ERO application to the RCA.

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“I am humbled to file this application on behalf of the diverse and dedicated group of stakeholders who comprise the RRC and the hundreds of thousands of Alaskans we collectively represent,” says Julie Estey, director of external affairs and strategic initiatives with Matanuska Electric Association and chair of the RRC. “With this submission we commit to continued collaboration, transparency, technical excellence, independence, and inclusion as we work to meet the changing needs of the Railbelt electric system and the homes and businesses it serves.”

RCC Vice Chair Suzanne Settle, the vice president of energy, land, and resources for Cook Inlet Region Incorporated, says the committee has been rooted in openness and collaboration to balance the diverse interests of the membership.

The RRC Implementation Committee was a collective of almost thirty volunteers that spent thousands of hours drafting the documents that will facilitate regional planning and reliability of the state’s largest electric grid,” says Settle. “Collectively, we are striving to generate synergies through regional planning that will ultimately lower the cost of electricity in support of a prosperous economy.”

“The concept of a collaborative structure that brings a variety of diverse perspectives together for the benefit of the entire region has been discussed for decades and we couldn’t be happier to achieve this critical milestone,” Estey adds. “The RRC appreciates the RCA’s consideration of our application and, if approved, we stand ready to fulfill the critical mission of the state’s first ERO.”

The RCA has the authority to reject the application, but the commission would then have to create an ERO on its own terms. Keriann Baker, director of member relations for Homer Electric Association and a newly appointed RRC board member, says no other entity is likely to have the technical know-how or stakeholder interest that the council encompasses.

The application can be found on the RCA website as Docket E-22-001.

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The track of oil and gas development in Alaska shows the footprints of bold companies and hard-working individuals who shaped the industry in the past and continue to innovate today. The May 2024 issue of Alaska Business explores that history while looking forward to new product development, the energy transition for the fishing fleet, and the ethics of AI tools in business.

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