Murkowski: Help on the Way for Many Alaska Communities Facing High Energy Costs

USDA Advances Nine Alaska Grant Applications to Final Stage of Review

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today commended the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for announcing that nine grant applications to assist rural Alaska communities have made it to the final level of review under its High Energy Cost Grants Program, which is designed to assist families and individuals in areas with extremely high household energy costs. USDA is in the process of awarding $16 million through the program to upgrade local energy generation, transmission, and distribution facilities.                                          

“I am pleased to see so many of our communities on the verge of receiving much-needed relief from the staggering burden imposed by high energy costs, which affects rural Alaska far more than the rest of the nation—whether it be the cost of heat, electricity, or transportation,” Senator Murkowski said. “High energy costs can eat up nearly half of household budgets in our remote communities, and for some, have even been a barrier to survival. I have continued to support this program through the appropriations process in order to help make rural energy more affordable and ensure that all of our residents have the ability to lead safe, healthy, and comfortable lives.”

The nine Alaska projects that have advanced to final review are from the Alaska Power & Telephone Company, Alaska Village Electric Co-Op, City of Grayling, City of Pilot Point, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, NANA Regional Corporation, New Koliganek Village Council, Asa’carsarmiut Tribe, and Naterkaq Light Plant. Additional details on each project are available on the USDA website.

Background: Ever since stepping into office, President Obama repeatedly proposed to zero out this program. Senator Murkowski fought to save the program, and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, each year she successfully turned back the administration’s effort to eliminate funding for it.

According to USDA, assistance from the High Energy Costs Grants Program is available to “states, communities, Tribal organizations, nonprofits and other entities where per household energy costs are 275 percent of the national average or higher.” Historically, the program has provided support for Alaskan communities by:

  • Constructing community-owned renewable energy projects including wind, solar, small hydroelectric and biomass systems;
  • Providing cost-saving energy efficiency and weatherization upgrades for rural homes and community facilities;
  • Replacing failing transmission and distribution lines;
  • Extending electric distribution lines to connect homes in rural communities;
  • Replacing old inefficient diesel generators in remote Alaska villages with more efficient less polluting units with heat recovery systems.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska