Alaska Could Lead The Nation In Renewable Energy

An energy conference is going on in downtown Anchorage about how to make Alaska more energy efficient and using the state as one of the worlds leaders for renewable energy.
Renewable Energy Alaska project is hosting a two day Business of Clean Energy in Alaska conference at the Dena'ina Center.
One local alternative energy supplier lives by his motto, "I run a complete homestead on solar and wind and I have been for many years," says Kirk Garoutte, owner of Susitna Energy Systems, "it definitely works. You just have to adjust the way you do things a little bit and be efficient."
But for Kirk, this movement of going green is not new. He's been selling alternative renewable structures to homes and businesses statewide for more than a decade. "The nice thing about if you have an alternative energy system installed in your home or your business the price you pay today locks in the cost of energy from here on out," says Garoutte.
According to Enxco, one of the companies teamed up to develop Alaska's first large-scale wind project on Fire Island, the project could bring electricity to about 18 thousand homes in the rail belt and putting the project in service by 2011. "Had we put the project in, say in 2005, power from Fire Island would be cheaper than the cost of fuel today," says Steve Gilbert, an Alaskan projects manager with Enxco.
And while the governor said she wants Alaska to go 50 percent renewable by 2025 some say it's nice but we have to follow through, "Those are good goals we just need to put some teeth to them," says Gilbert.
Meanwhile, Rural Alaska Community Action program, Inc. is on the ground addressing immediate needs. "We see that the most important thing is working with people directly and with communities and educating them to know what resources we can provide for them lower cost now because a lot of the projects are long term," says Rebekah Luhrs, Energy Programs Coordinator with Rural CAP.
In fact, Rural CAP is already getting the ball rolling on some stimulus money communities received directly. "We are going to focus on 8 different rural communities and do about 150 houses small scale efficiency work and possible works with community buildings to make more efficient," says Luhrs.
The stimulus money Rural CAP received isn't from the monies governor Palin hasn't approved yet for the State Energy Program.
The conference had more than just renewable energy industry groups; this was another way for the younger generation to make their voices heard for Alaska's future.
"We think this is a good opportunity this 50 million this and for the next 3 years we think this is a good opportunity to really realize some of the renewable energy potential," says Wiley Cason a recent grad from West High School and member of the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action.
A group of recent high school grads are requesting more funding for renewable energy development in the Alaska's state budget and support the national Renewable Energy Electricity standard of 25 percent by 2025. It's a debate currently going on in congress. "They have made Alaska a priority, so by making the federal government understand the need and the demand is here they want to know that we want renewable energy," says Andrea Sanders, an Alaska renewable energy organizer with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
But Senator Lisa Murkowski has reservations about this. "It's an issue that generates its own level of controversy because not all areas of the country are similarly situated in terms of having axis to plentiful sources of renewable energy," says Senator Murkowski. Senator Murkowski uses southwest as an example because it does not have solar and wind to meet the standard.
Murkowski says the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee may have the RES issue before them in a couple of days and it could possibly move to next Thursday if they don't address this week.

By:  Christina Grande