Robert Seitz: Energy bills of the 33rd Legislature didn’t address long-term plan for Railbelt



I was excited the Alaska Legislature engaged in efforts to encourage production of Cook Inlet gas.  

I was, however, very disappointed when a legislator could not move forward a bill to reduce royalty payments on Cook Inlet gas because he could find no certainty it would work to increase production.

This much is clear: It can’t work if not passed. Whether or not it would work is not the point, but that it might work is worth a try.  

Southcentral Alaska is desperate for increased production of Cook Inlet gas. I’m not sure what the other Cook Inlet gas bills that died would have done, had they passed, but I will do more research to understand the driving force behind the reluctance to get on board for energy security in Alaska.

Carbon sequestration is something possibly useful for gasification of coal or some other energy process, so it could be a beneficial tool for our state’s energy tool box. Simply storing someone else’s CO2 does not excite me, but if it can bring in some money while we figure out just what our energy policy needs to be — green or  hydrocarbon — it’s worth a try.

House Bill 307 was greatly modified from the original submission on Feb. 2, especially modified on the last day of session, May 15. I remain concerned much of the text may contain hidden landmines that could be used to deviate from the original intent and force more renewable sources to the system, even if the system is not ready for more variable sources.  

The ERO (Electrical Reliability Organization) and the RTO (Railbelt Transmission Organization) discussed in H.B. 307 seem patterned after similar organizations in other states for the sole purpose of forcing wind and solar expansion to local utilities. We could have done better in Alaska to plan for altering our electrical power system to match the severity of our winters, thus ensuring we all survive the cold and dark. 

Long-term planning with step-by-step engineering is needed for the long-duration energy storage necessary, and to make sure we have the means to capture excess variable energy produced, so we have it when we need it most. Mandating is not the solution.

I am also concerned that with H.B. 307, additional power generation from hydrocarbon fuel could be denied and there is no provision or recommendation for planning for the Railbelt system.

As I have been stating for eight years, for wind and solar distributed resources to be successful, we need energy storage means, such as pumped hydro, which would allow all excess solar and wind generation to be captured for use during the cold and dark months.

I was certain that the Railbelt Transmission Organization would not be fully implemented until the new transmission line was designed and being installed. It may be quite difficult to identify portions of the system which are transmission line within some of the utilities and for them to be given over to the RTO.

The key to the healthy growth of the Railbelt power system is continued production of Cook Inlet gas, which will provide time for the development of whatever wind and solar might be added, inclusion of pumped hydro or other energy storage and any other less variable sources such as geo thermal or Cook Inlet tidal. One major goal is to develop our system to produce more and cheaper energy to support refining processes for the ore produced in Alaska, so we can build whatever our future economy will be driven by.

The Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference is this week. I look forward to hearing more about viable solutions to Alaska’s energy needs.  

My next commentary will address the claim that Alaska is warming two to four times faster than the rest of the planet. It doesn’t feel like it to me, so I dug into the data.

Robert Seitz is a professionally licensed electrical engineer and lifelong Alaskan.


  1. > Carbon sequestration is something possibly useful

    No. It is not useful at all.

    Carbon sequestrations underlying presupposition is that it will combat something that does not exist at all. It only exists in the minds of those who thinks its real. Like gender ideology.

    We instead ought to focus on providing cheap and abundant energy sources while keeping the extraction and refining processes as clean as possible. Cheap and abundant energy is necessary for a growing economy and lifting those in poverty out of poverty (unlike government programs).

  2. When we don’t have enough gas for energy I want to see all the legislatures and government do without any power or heat.
    They created this mess. They need to be first in line to accept the consequences except for blame somebody else.

  3. Leave it to NREL to get the basics wrong. Eagle River is not served by Chugach Electric.

  4. Solar and wind will never be viable in our lifetimes. And probably well beyond.

    Why? Look out the window in winter.

    Stop chasing liberal unicorns.

  5. Another stupid arrogant suggestion or thought concerning the future of energy for our citizens. Let’s build a community just for the climate change people with just solar panels and windmills and let them live their lives in Alaska in peace. However, the above items will be their only energy sources for survival. If they can exist for 10 years, then we may consider it a viable test of technology to be considered for all. Until then, lets do what is prudent and necessary for the people of this State.

  6. What’s blatantly obvious about this article, what most Alaskans will most likely realize (hopefully!), is that legislation is ‘required’ to solve this issue and, with the recent adjournment, the issue still exists … UNRESOLVED. We’ve missed the window of opportunity for meaningful action, until the issue can once again be taken up in the next Legislature Session. Another year will pass without any action, once again increasing the risk of power // gas disruption.
    Legislators within the Rail-Belt area need to understand the importance of solving this issue, making this a High-Priority item, before it becomes a crisis.

    • You want them to solve a problem that they took a large part of creating? We’d be better served if they just stopped getting involved and allowed the market to sort itself out. Short of giving money to producers to produce gas in Cook Inlet there will be no new gas produced there, the last time they said they were going to give money for production they reneged and companies went bankrupt leading to the situation we are currently in.

  7. They put off working on anything. They need to make a crisis, for the opportunity it provides

  8. Carbon sequestration is being pushed by the same Wall Street shysters who brought us junk bonds & derivatives which eventually led to some of the worst economic meltdowns in American history when the Ponzi scheme ultimately collapsed. Dunleavy and his advisors are not smart enough to see that they are being conned! This is nothing more than a massive land grab by Wall Street.

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