Alaska Planners Facing Aging System's Cold Realities

The electric generation and transmission system serving approximately 75% of Alaska's population is aging quickly, just as the state's electricity demand has been pegged to rise nearly 40% over the next 20 years. Rising fuel costs and capital expenses required to replace up to seven generating units could boost power costs by 50% over the next 30 years, according a recent study sponsored by six...

09/01/2004


The electric generation and transmission system serving approximately 75% of Alaska's population is aging quickly, just as the state's electricity demand has been pegged to rise nearly 40% over the next 20 years.

Rising fuel costs and capital expenses required to replace up to seven generating units could boost power costs by 50% over the next 30 years, according a recent study sponsored by six electric utilities along the Railbelt—the single transmission system now serving the state's most populous regions. Fairbanks is the metro area facing the most urgent need, according to the Railbelt Energy Study . Authored by Seattle-based R. W. Beck, the report states that new generation needs to be online by 2008.

The state's sometimes extreme weather conditions mean that its electricity system must maintain higher power reserves, to ensure customers don't come up short during arctic conditions.

One solution that the report proposes for financing and managing needed upgrades is to establish a unified system operator similar to independent system operators now common throughout the United States. Talks are now underway regarding this option, according to a recent Alaska Journal article on the subject.





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