Changes clear path for hydropower projects and would allow Alaska Native corporations to claim double credits for generating renewable energy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today secured several key provisions beneficial to Alaska in a proposed national renewable electricity standard (RES).
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked up an RES measure crafted by the majority that would require utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2021.Utilities that sell less than 4 million megawatt hours annually would be exempt from the mandate. The RES is part of a larger energy package the committee is trying to complete by mid June.
While Murkowski opposes the current version of the national mandate because it fails to treat all regions of the country equally and will likely lead to higher electric bills in parts of the Lower 48, she was able to make changes to the proposal that will permit Alaska utilities, none of which are connected to the interstate transmission grid or meet the 4 million-megawatt-hour threshold, to sell renewable energy credits to Lower 48 utilities.
“A one-size-fits-all national mandate is a poor fit in many states and that’s especially true of Alaska,” Murkowski said. “While Alaska utilities would not have to meet the 15 percent mandate, they would now be eligible for renewable energy credits.”
Among the many amendments that Murkowski won approval for Thursday were several that specifically benefited Alaska, including language that provides credits for the installation of hydroelectric power, including lake taps, pumped storage, and hydro projects up to 50 megawatts. The amendment would allow projects like Lake Dorothy near Juneau, Mahoney Lake near Ketchikan, Grant and Elva lakes near Dillingham, and a host of smaller proposed hydro projects from Angoon to Tok to qualify under an RES mandate as renewable energy projects and receive tradable federal credits that could aid in securing financing.
Murkowski was also able to include language that would double credits for renewable energy generation on tribal land and by Alaska Native corporations, which could help finance renewable energy projects, as well as provide a potential source of revenue, in rural communities.
Homeowners and businesses that generate renewable energy would be eligible under an RES to receive triple credits for any excess electricity they sell to their local utilities.