Anchorage Daily News: OPINION: Alaska’s all-of-the-above energy policy is an example for the US
In the midst of our nation’s ongoing struggle to bridge the divide around energy innovation, navigating the dynamics around a changing climate and the recognized need for a consensus-driven path toward a long-term energy future, Alaska’s energy leadership has been on full display in recent months. Collectively, Alaska has shown a refreshing, directional approach to responsible energy solutions; offering a powerful example and in many ways a standard for the rest of the country to follow.
This leadership was evident as Gov. Mike Dunleavy concluded the second annual Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference in Anchorage this past May, attracting distinguished world-class speakers, policy leaders, federal and state officials, and U.S. and international investors interested in Alaska’s promising energy future. By convening this premier energy gathering, coupled with the passage of recently enacted carbon offset legislation and the creation of the Alaska Energy Security Task Force, Gov. Dunleavy and his administration have offered a refreshing vision to work collaboratively on energy innovation and modernization in a changing security world. And by reshaping our energy and climate conversations to incorporate economics, community-focused solutions and lowering the cost of power for Alaskans, Dunleavy is showcasing what many Alaskans already know — a more efficient, more affordable and more environmentally responsible energy future is well within reach by finding common ground and rising above the parochial political biases, self-interests and agendas.
When great minds gather together and roll up their sleeves, progress happens. Efforts like the development of a new hydropower facility at Sweetheart Lake near Juneau, the groundbreaking of the state’s largest solar project in the Mat-Su, the expansion of the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric project on the Kenai Peninsula, bipartisan efforts in the Alaska Legislature to extend the Renewable Energy Grant fund and the implementation of innovative carbon management legislation, all serve as shining examples of tangible, proactive, homegrown energy solutions that underscore Alaska’s commitment to an all-of-the-above energy strategy and long-term sustainability.
In fact, from local governments to the state Legislature and the U.S. Senate, our state leaders are at the center of a holistic, market-based approach to energy, climate, and environmental stewardship. Like the governor, both Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have been a driving force behind a level-headed, American-led approach to responsible energy development.
Sen. Sullivan’s recent legislative efforts, the Energy, Climate and Jobs Act, underscores a commitment to balancing economic growth and environmental stewardship to reduce carbon emissions while bolstering job creation, American family wages and innovation. He shows that our energy and climate strategy can serve as a positive tool for leveraging America’s abundant energy and natural resources to secure strong domestic supply chains to gain comparative advantages against China, Russia and other foreign adversaries while materially lowering global greenhouse gas emissions.
Sen. Murkowski’s leadership on comprehensive energy policies and Alaska’s unique community needs is equally noteworthy. Her instrumental role on the passage of both the Energy Act of 2020 and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, as well as her outsized influence in areas of hydropower policy, highlight her commitment to bringing our nation’s energy infrastructure into the 21st Century. Her work includes broadening and funding Alaska’s spectrum of energy technologies, from microgrid technology, expanded transmission lines, new electric vehicle deployment and investments in renewables like wind, solar and geothermal to cutting-edge advanced and safe nuclear deployment.
Our delegation has also championed important legislation known as the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act to enhance our nation’s leadership in fish-friendly and environmentally responsible hydropower development. And together, Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan, along with key sectors of our economy spanning private business and organized labor, have made a strong push for permitting and regulatory reform to ensure all energy projects — renewable, traditional, and critical mineral development — can be built efficiently, environmentally and promptly for our nation’s security while safeguarding our environment.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to former President Barack Obama during his first term, put it well during his remarks at the 2023 Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference. Energy is not just a commodity, it is not just a mere cost or economic input; Energy is a “strategic asset.” Without it, global actors use energy as a tool for conflict and coercion, as witnessed by current events in Ukraine and Europe. Acknowledging this strategic imperative, Alaska and America must unquestionably be energy self-reliant.
We are an untapped hydro, renewable and critical mineral powerhouse that requires both support and encouragement. As one of the few places in the world with the blessing of vast traditional and renewable energy sources, Alaska possesses the unique capacity to showcase to the rest of the country exactly how to responsibly develop energy locally and sustainably while lowering costs, improving the quality of life for our geographically diverse communities, and providing for our nation’s energy needs. Renewable, low-cost energy can also fuel resource development and critical mineral development, which in turn fuels a zero-carbon future. Unmistakably Alaska is the critical minerals breadbasket for our nation’s future and national security needs.
Admittedly, there is no single answer to our energy challenges, but the task requires a unified, determined effort. Still, Alaska’s leaders are demonstrating that energy policy, environmental stewardship, and the climate are not mutually exclusive by forging ahead with commonsense, sustainable solutions for our future. More must be done to achieve our full energy potential and advance our nation security interests, but the rest of the nation should look to Alaska’s pragmatic, common-man approach to energy as a blueprint worth emulating.
Duff Mitchell is the managing director of Juneau Hydropower, executive director of the Alaska Independent Power Producers Association, serves on the Juneau Commission on Sustainability, the National Hydropower Association’s legislative affairs committee, the Alaska Energy Security Task Force, and is a veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
By: Duff Mitchell