Robert Seitz: In House Bill 368, no ‘renewable portfolio standard’ should be approved without a plan, energy storage, and a deal for Cook Inlet gas

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By ROBERT SEITZ

House Bill 368 was introduced on Feb. 20, and it looks like a Renewable Portfolio Standards bill with dates extended from earlier dates in previous RPS bills, requiring 35% “clean energy” by 2036 and 51% by 2051.  

There are, however, some things to pay attention to in this bill.  

There is requirement to begin reporting about the progress for “clean energy” beginning March 1, 2026.  This Act takes effect July 1, 2024 and there are a number of requirements that are to be met soon.  

The greatest failing of this bill is that there is no provision to control or limit the cost of energy that is added to the Railbelt.    Cheap energy should be the goal.  Rather than an RPS bill, it would be more profitable to all to have a bill that has the Railbelt utilities map out a plan that would be a guide for the future development. Without energy storage in the Railbelt, this clean energy bill is much less important than securing additional Cook Inlet natural gas.  

This guide should investigate first the ability to add pumped hydro to the system as an energy storage mechanism, which would benefit the wind and solar energy sources to allow all excess energy generated to be stored.  atteries would not be effective storage devices for Alaska, but are very effective for Kauai, Hawaii as the sun is there every day for about the same amount of time all year, and it will be warm enough for no one to be at risk to freeze if the power is interrupted.  

Alaska is a different sort of place; a place in which people can suffer and die when the energy sources are not present when the days are dark and cold.

The next step would be to identify stable base energy sources such as hydroelectric dam, geothermal source or nuclear reactor which would be likely candidates to add to the system. Each of these energy sources must be estimated for size and for the timeline for when each can be brought on line and estimate the cost/kwh for each. These are all non-CO2 sources so should eliminate decarbonization discussions. In the course of this effort, the Railbelt utilities need to consider the amount of expansion to the energy sources that is required to accommodate whatever additional electrification will be needed.

Then the entire Railbelt needs to be evaluated for where the system needs to have microgrids formed to provide resilience to those portions of the Railbelt transmission and distribution which could be without power upon disruption of the transmission lines during earthquakes, fire, or wind and ice.  Each of these microgrids would probably contain wind and/or solar sources supplemented by a battery energy storage system and then some base source of power such as a diesel generator, methanol fueled generator or maybe even a small geothermal generator. The identification of these microgrid locations would be sites made available for utilities or IPP to propose installation of necessary equipment some of which would be wind or solar (variable energy sources.)

At this stage, the Railbelt utilities will be able to work out what transmission line additions and changes are necessary to build out for the future system. To install the transmission lines to upgrade the system required by HB368 could well be a waste of time when a full understanding of where the energy sources will be installed is not yet known.  

As we develop our long term energy plan, the first thing that is needed is to secure future Cook Inlet natural gas production and distribution.  From comments I have read, those working on solutions to get more Cook Inlet natural gas is that the natural gas is subject to pricing as a commodity on the world market.  

Some way to decouple Cook Inlet natural gas from the commodity market and ensure future price to the Railbelt utilities through contracts, using reduced royalties, streamlined permitting and favorable taxation to bring all parties together in mutual agreement, must be found. This will help secure our energy reliability and resilience, and allow proper engineering for whatever the future Railbelt system needs to be.  

Encourage you legislators to find solutions to our Cook Inlet Gas supply problem and to resist entanglement with a renewable portfolio standard for our Railbelt Electrical utility.  

Wind and solar would not provide “sustainable” energy without an energy storage. Cook Inlet natural gas will ensure continued energy for life safety and a growing economy.  Let’s do what is sensible.

Robert Seitz is a licensed PE Electrical Engineer and lifelong Alaskan.

14 COMMENTS

  1. By the time all of these options are studied and legislated the lights will be off. A simple RPS will give investors certainty in making long term investments.

    • It would actually have the opposite effect. Unless of course you meant it would cause those who invest in reliable energy to not invest here and those who invest in heavily subsidized renewables to flood the market with ureliable intermittent power producers.

    • An arbitrary standard, set by politicians and those with a political agenda, instead of by those in the know about how reliable alternative energy sources are, is the real cause of outages, excessive power costs, and massive impacts to the economy.
      Renewables cannot currently provide the expected percentage of energy generation, and they are not likely to do so any time soon.

  2. There is NO cheaper energy source for the rail belt than coal, which has been vilified everywhere. Next up is natural gas, which has started to be made the bad guy. LNG can be purchased in the gulf and transported to Alaska for distribution for less than 1/3 the cost the ratepayers are paying today. This is why the Alaska LNG PROJECT is pure idiocy. There is ZERO alternative energy in solar, wind, or tidal power that is in any way viable in large power generation arrangements that can compete with coal or natural gas. Any these
    ” alternative energy” sources that have been placed into the grid have resulted in an INCREASE in cost to the ratepayer.

    • Best and highest use of coal in the Railbelt would be a CTL plant at Tyonek. Size it at 80,000 bbl/day and you get a three-fer. You solve the liquid fuel problem by syn-diesel (methane can also be output). You add perhaps a third to existing Railbelt electrical generation with a generator run by waste heat from Fischer – Tropsch process (350 MW in some estimates). And you sequester CO2 from the process. Think of a CTL plant as a refinery for coal. Cheers –

  3. If a total cost of ownership evaluation was completed for solar and wind energy was completed, no one would invest or purchase solar panels or wind generators. The push for these inefficient, non recyclables that contain tons and tons of toxic materials should be banned from the planet.

    You can’t reduce carbon by cutting down trees. The Biden Administration proposal to designate 55 million acres of public lands for industrial-scale solar farms is insane. You can’t reduce carbon by mining tons and tons of toxic materials which are needed for solar panels, wind generators and the millions of tons of batteries that quickly lose the ability to be fully charged.

    Ask anyone that has owned battery powered lawn mowers, cell phones, battery powered tools. The push to constantly upgrade is a smoke screen for battery failures.

    Someone needs to provide truthful data on the wind generators on Fire Island near Anchorage. I have flown over them many many times in the last few years and I never see any of the wind generators in action. However, I believe us utility payers are still being charged. It has turned into a Ricky Ricardo moment, “Hey Lucy, someone needs to do some splainen.”

    • Agree totally.
      If people actually knew the real cost of owning an EV, they would not buy one. Ever.
      No different with wind/solar/whatever “green” they are pushing. As soon as the government stops throwing money at them, they stop working. Sort of like strippers.

  4. Why don’t the green energy groups start using green only energy right now and stop using all fossil fuels?
    They are hypocrites and liars as they still want the benifits of fossil fuels.
    They can have all the solar and wind power to use and the rest of us will use fossil fuels.

    • Mark. Pro fossil fuel, pro climate change advocates like you often make the claim that in Alaska, renewable energy can’t replace oil and gas. And that’s true. But no one is advocating for TOTAL replacement. It’s got to be a blend of options. Don’t you think?

  5. Nothing will clear this region out faster than a nice, cold, windy winter without heat. I’ve got my bucksaw and maul ready to begin again where I left off in the 1980’s. Bring it on. Let’s get these folks moving back to California here they belong.

  6. Can’t do these things, they don’t empower the Left to immiserate the population or remove the masses from the picture

  7. This column is a tough slog, about as bad as the last one by Robert.

    The fifth paragraph starts with “This guide should investigate first the ability to add pumped hydro to the system as an energy storage mechanism,” Which guide is Bob talking about a reader might ask, well if you go into the middle of the previous paragraph we are told “Rather than an RPS bill, it would be more profitable to all to have a bill that has the Railbelt utilities map out a plan that would be a guide for the future development.” so I guess that would be the guide he’s talking about. The fifth paragraph continues ” atteries would not be effective storage devices for Alaska,” I didn’t cut off the B, it says ” atteries”, but that’s not the worst of it “atteries would not be effective storage devices for Alaska, but are very effective for Kauai, Hawaii as the sun is there every day for about the same amount of time all year,” it seems Bob wasn’t talking about batteries but solar panels.

    Bob wants pumped storage using Eklutna lake as the storage and wind and solar as the power source used to pump water uphill. Now pumped storage has its place and it’s certainly feasible to use it here in Alaska, but the last column Bob wrote told us that just the pumped storage part would cost almost one BILLION DOLLARS.

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