Power the future: Alaska’s next energy battlefield is renewable portfolio standards



With the Biden Administration now having gone nearly two weeks without an administrative or executive order hurting one of Alaska’s resource development opportunities, it gives everyone a chance to take a deep breath and re-focus.

For renewable energy zealots – you know, the misguided souls who believe ‘green’ energy solutions can be made cost-effectively, and somehow, will work all the time instead of intermittently – 2023 is the year to throw down their gauntlet, make demands and force their desired outcomes on the state.

They’ve found willing legislators in the Alaska House and Senate to be their patsies and introduce “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS) bills this session. Renewable portfolio standards would mandate a certain percentage of a utility’s power come from ‘green’ energy sources by a certain date.  With this legislation, it is 80% power by 2040.

Organizations like REAP (Renewable Energy Alaska Project) and the Alaska Center (for the Environment and every other liberal cause-de-jour) have touted renewable portfolio standards as “must-pass” legislation this session. Those groups, along with the legislation’s supporters, have refused to acknowledge the three biggest problems with RPS:

  • Nothing about renewable portfolio standards is free-market. Mandating a certain outcome by a certain date drives an artificial market adjustment; overriding consumer choice and the ability of the  market to choose winners and losers.
  • Nothing about renewable portfolio standards is ready to be implemented today. Wind, solar and other “green” solutions aren’t ready to scale, there isn’t a storage solution for their energy that is practical, and the utilities themselves would need transmission upgrades that would bankrupt their co-op budgets (hence, the need for subsidies and state aid, which goes back to artificial market adjustments in the previous point).
  • Nothing about renewable portfolio standards makes sense, unless you’re concerned with a made-up “climate crisis” and willing to take drastic steps to support the narrative. With well over 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available on Alaska’s North Slope, the better use of state and utility funds would be to work with the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation and build the pipeline that would feed not only the population centers of the state, but an terminal for LNG exports.  

Ultimately, the 60 members of the Legislature will decide the fate of renewable portfolio standards. Let’s hope – for Alaska’s sake – they listen to reason and not REAP and friends.

Rick Whitbeck is state director for Power the Future.


  1. The state should tell the feds to get out of state business. We should take all feds land as it belongs to the state. The feds just keep pushing and pushing. We should call them to the carpet.

  2. The most expensive kilowatt on the Railbelt is produced on the Fire Island wind farm. The genius greenie who drafted the RPS legislation failed to understand the basic structure of Alaska’s utilities. With the exception of ENSTAR and AEL&P which are investor owned, the rest of the utilities are co-ops. The RPS legislation before the legislature has an aggressive schedule of fines for non-compliance; however, the legislation states that utilities cannot charge the consumers and the co-ops must pay it out of their pockets and it cannot be charged in any manner to consumers. Forrest Gump would be shaking his head saying, “stupid is as stupid does.”For the record Mr or Ms Genius Greenie, all dollars in a co-op are consumer dollars. There are no other pots of money. I’m so sick of these greenies, their contradictions and most of all their herd cult-like mentalities. The bill is stupid.

    • And the only reason Fire Island has those bird killers on it is because the Federal Government gave CIRI the money to build it. If CIRI had to pay to construct, the project would never see a return on investment, and they would not have built it.
      When the Federal Government gets involved, costs go up.

  3. The most expensive kilowatt on the Railbelt is from a renewable energy project — the Fire Island wind farm. Whoever the genius greenie was that wrote this RPS legislation must have had 1/3 the mental capacity of a squirrel.
    For instance, the basic construct of the premise of the bill is all wrong. Alaska only had two investor owned utilities — ENSTAR and AEL&P in Juneau. The rest are co-ops that are consumer owned. The legislation has an aggressive schedule of fines for utilities that fail to meet certain standards by certain dates or face financial penalties for non-compliance. Yet, the legislation says that the utilities cannot charge their customers for the fines. This is where Forrest Gump would say, “stupid is as stupid does.” Co-ops have NO money except from their co-op members.
    I’m sick and tired of these self-righteous greenie nitwits telling me how I have to live. Learn what you’re talking about before trying to save the world.

  4. Quite the Luddite, Mr. Whitbeck. If it weren’t for people willing to take risks, Alaska wouldn’t have the oilfields it has today. If it weren’t for people applying and improving new technologies, the fields wouldn’t be as productive or as long-lived as they are, either.

    Technologies improve as science makes new discoveries, engineers apply them, and the cycle of continuous improvement takes hold. Just because electric everythings aren’t perfect today, doesn’t mean that they won’t improve as time progresses. And in the future, as-of-yet undreamed-of technologies will be created that will eventually replace much of the energy system we know today.

    Mr. Whitbeck panders to the Alaskan oil set and bashes alternative energy because oil is all he knows, and because it pays his salary. And all the while, coastal Alaskan villages fall into the rising seas, while others sink into the melting permafrost.

    • Whidbey,

      Government didn’t mandate the Alaska oil fields. Government didn’t mandate scientific discoveries. Government didn’t mandate engineers apply these scientific discoveries…well, OK in some cases they did mandate the scientific discoveries but only after they were proven out. If government mandates future, as-of-yet undreamed-of technologies that that will eventually replace much of the energy system we know today, we should all be concerned because it will likely lead to the destruction of all life on this planet.

    • Your opening sentence was a descent to name calling. Congratulations on your new BFF, cognitive dissonance.

      Rick used his real name, choosing not to hide behind a fake one and makes his case without calling names.

      I have no sympathy for coastal villages, built on barrier islands. You shouldn’t either. You might want to review what barrier islands actually are, what they do, and how they operate. Blaming poor lifestyle choices on the producers is a bit much. Cheers –

    • If the wind and solar projects are viable, why is it they are not economically self sustaining. I truly believe they are PART of the solution for rural villages off the grid, in that diesel is cost prohibitive when transportation, etc is figured in. It is NOT the solution for much of Alaska if you look at a wind map. Looking at the example of Texas and Great Britain and Germany we know for a fact that a robust secondary fossil fuel back up will be necessary for quite some time. Then the environmental impact of mining lithium for batteries or the carbon energy (coal, dirty coal at that) burned in China to manufacture solar and wind turbine is worse than burning natural gas. Until the climate alarmists develop an off the shelf (non taxpayer R and D) solution that is net less polluting and net less costly we will have fossil fuel. Alaska without extractive resources will never have a viable economy. With extractive resources Alaska has unlimited potential.

    • Taking risks is one thing.
      Expecting to defy the laws of physics and the economic realities of supply/demand and return on investment is another.
      First of all, the laws of thermodynamics remain in play, I do not care how good the tech becomes. Then there is the overall lifetime environmental cost of the wind turbines themselves.
      Finally, there is the cost to build/operate and whether that cost will be overcome by the revenue generated.
      All three are a net negative. And, the people pushing for this know it. So… taking a risk? Sure, if there is a good chance you will benefit in the end. There is ZERO risk to building “green energy” when taxpayers are ensuring you will not lose money. Who cares if there is no energy or environmental benefit.

  5. Give God, The Creator, a little credit. If Jehovah God had not Created and maintained His earth as He does we would not have the renewable resources HE created for us and He still maintains for our use. As an educator your education is lacking as regards data about a living all powerful God who still owns His heavens, universes and this earth ? on His perfect timetables for us. He laughs too at man’s puny efforts to fight His purpose for the earth and where we go from here. Seek God while He may yet be found for best results.

  6. Did it ever occur to anyone that the majors are leaving Alaska in part because of increasingly unfavorable economics, and that this loophole is a factor in Hillcorp being able to economically sustain operations? Duh!

    Sadly, Alaska is proving to be a one-trick pony, draining increasingly-smaller oilfields and clamoring for more of them (Willow), while slowly and inexorably reverting back to what it was before Prudhoe bay was discovered.

    The main difference now, however, is that the State’s Government and citizens are hooked on oil revenue and big PFDs. And as always, withdrawal from addiction is a very painful process.

    • Turn off NY businesses again. Ninety-eight percent (98 %) of NY state is in private title. Ninety-eight percent of AK is owned by “federal agency” corporations registered in your favorite destination Whidbey, the City of London. These likely foreign agents in Alaska do not operate to open business oportunities but are required to operate themselves within the state of Alaska with purchased business licenses which they haughtily refuse to even obtain. Why is that oh wise Whidbey? Darned hood-winking Democrats.

    • The majors are leaving because they have been run off by the feds and the occasional democrat governor (Bill Walker). Still, there is still a LOT of oil / natural gas on the Slope in ANWR, NPR-A and offshore, each of which have about what Prudhoe had at the beginning. This is why the feds and their state-level sycophants are doing their level best to ensure none of the new fields are explored or drilled.

      One trick pony is entirely due to obstruction by the feds. Pebble, for instance. Logging in the Tongass. At the state level, we opted out of fish farming 30 years ago, and now are watching commfish destroy wild runs of kings statewide. In places, silvers and reds aren’t far behind (PWS). Resource development states need to develop resources.

      My perfect world would have Pebble in operation, logging in the Tongass, CTLs out of Tyonek, GTLs / CTLs off the Slope batched with current flow, and commfish transitioning to onshore / offshore fish farming. All are completely sustainable and environmentally friendly. All are possible. All will bring jobs and future for our kids and grandkids. Most will happen in our lifetimes, though that time is getting short for some of us.

      The fact that New Mexico is producing 3x the oil and natural gas Alaska does should be an embarrassment. Cheers –

  7. Current RPS is 50% statewide, which is doable due to hydro in SouthEast, Cooper Lake, and another hydro project on the Kenai. If they want to jack that number up to 80% for no discernible reason, the only way we make it is via Watana and GenIV nukes. Do the proponents understand this? If they don’t what else don’t they understand? Final question: Precisely what do they expect to gain by jacking the RPS up another 30%? Cheers –

  8. How does freezing in the dark grab you? All this do-gooding has already driven our property taxes to the roof, and the high increase in food stamp usage has driven groceries up at triple the inflation rate and now our utilities are under attack. Eroding shoreline is nothing new either, but now it’s a great way to get a new free house. Or entire town.

  9. Far too often not discussed is the cost of doing nothing!! Had we proceeded with the construction of the first phase of Susitna in the 80’s the energy discussion of today would have been much different. The Billions of cu ft. precious natural gas would not have been burned in various gas generation plants in South Central over the past three decades, the once growing Petro-chemical industry on the Kenai would still be there providing 1000’s of high paying jobs it once did, a gas line would have been constructed from Cook inlet to the interior years ago for heating needs. The Knik Arm crossing would have been completed as well as a world class Mat-su port facility. We had another great opportunity to proceed with Susitna following the completion of Bradley Hydro in 1991. but again listened to several mis-guided utility managers and their boards as we blew somewhere North of $700,000,000.00 on a failed clean coal facility near Healy that also burned through 1000’s of wasted human resource days as well. Susitna is the key project to moving forward with an entire basket of projects , all long overdue and all of which would move the entire state forward in a positive manner. Bradley was brought on line ahead of schedule and under budget and has been a great asset not only for the entire rail belt but all of Alaskan’s. We have the resources, we have the need, but still lack the political will to find a way to move forward.

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