Murkowski Highlights Energy Innovation in Rural Alaska

Bethel, AK – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, held a field hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Bethel to examine the advancements that rural Alaska is making in energy innovation. Murkowski was joined by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and five of her Senate colleagues to hear how Alaska is a leader for the nation in energy innovation. 

Energy Secretary Moniz and Sens. Murkowski, Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Cantwell, D-Wash., listen to witness testimony at Monday’s hearing.

“Alaskans face some of the highest energy prices in the country and in some parts of the state, a gallon of diesel gas can run as high as ten dollars. Recognizing this reality, rural communities across Alaska have made great advancements in energy technology that have allowed residents to use less energy while saving money in energy costs,” Murkowski said. “Take Kwigillingok for example. Its integration of renewable technology has allowed the rural community to reduce its fuel costs by an estimated 50 percent. Kwig is just one of the many examples for the rest of the nation to follow in promoting energy innovation technologies.”

Sens. Capito, R-W.Va., King, I-Maine, and Daines, R-Mont., listen to witness testimony at Monday’s hearing.

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, convened Monday’s field hearing seeking input from community leaders, state officials, and the Secretary of Energy on efforts at the local, state, federal levels to integrate renewable technologies.

Joining her were Sens. Barrasso, R-Wyo., Cantwell, D-Wash., Capito, R-W.Va., Daines, R-Mont., and King, I-Maine.

The hearing featured a total of nine witnesses: Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz; Alaska Gov. Bill Walker; Alaska State Rep. Bob Herron; Michael Black from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; Ralph Andersen from the Bristol Bay Native Association; Jack Hebert from the Cold Climate Research Center; Steve Gilbert from the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative; Michael Hoffman from the Association of Village Council Presidents; and Gwen Holdmann from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Secretary Ernest Moniz, head of the U.S. Department of Energy, recognized Alaska’s unique energy challenges and committed to supporting Alaska’s advancements in innovation through programs within his department.

“The technologies and practices proven under the difficult conditions of this region will ultimately benefit not just Alaska, but also the broader U.S. economy. Our resources and challenges may be regionally-defined, but we fit into a global market and if we don’t compete and support our best and brightest and advance homegrown technologies, we will watch China and others take the lead and reap the economic rewards. Because of this, Alaska is an important focus for a range of programs at the Department of Energy.”

Alaska Gov. Walker, Alaska State Rep. Herron, and representatives from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Bristol Bay Native Association, Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, Cold Climate Housing Research Center, Association of Village Council Presidents, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks deliver testimony at Monday’s field hearing.

“Alaska is blessed with natural resources beyond compare – oil, natural gas, hydro, wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy. You name it, we have it in abundance. But it can be difficult to develop. You’ve gotten a sense of our vast landscape flying here. If you split Alaska into two states, Texas would still be the third-largest state. This remoteness, combined with our harsh weather and limited infrastructure make development of our energy resources challenging. But it’s absolutely critical for our economic future that we do. We’re committed to being a leader not only in traditional energy but renewable and alternative energy.”

Michael J. Hoffman, Executive Vice President of the Association of Village Council Presidents, called the high cost of living in rural Alaska extreme and underscored the importance of weatherization efforts to decrease energy costs.

“The cost of living in rural Alaska is extreme. The cost of living in the most rural communities are usually the highest where fresh foods, if available, cost five times higher when delivered by air and often arrive in poor condition,” Hoffman said. “Allowing families to save money that would go into groceries, mortgage, and improving the quality of life is essential.”

Murkowski, Moniz, and her fellow senators traveled to Oscarville before the hearing to meet with community leaders to see the village’s holistic approach to sustainable northern communities.

Murkowski, Alaska State Rep. Herron, and Sens. Capito, Daines, and King tour 
the community of Oscarville.

Murkowski also heard strong support for her bipartisan energy bill, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The bill would empower Alaskans to produce more energy, save money on energy bills, and continue to lead the nation in the innovation of new technologies. The bill was reported from committee by a bipartisan vote of 18-4 and includes ideas contributed by all the senators who attended Monday’s hearing.