Senator Murkowski Hosts Secretary of Energy in Alaska
Showcases Alaska’s Significant Energy Potential
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recently hosted U.S. Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, in Alaska for a visit focused on the state’s immense energy potential including a number of cutting-edge, Alaska driven initiatives. Senator Murkowski helped educate Secretary Granholm on an array of renewable energy projects within the state, including hydropower, wind energy, geothermal energy, and energy efficiency.
“Alaska is leading the way when it comes to responsible energy development. The best way for me to help folks in Washington D.C. understand Alaska’s tremendous potential is to bring them up to see it for themselves.
“I was excited to host Secretary Granholm and her staff at a number of sites throughout Alaska. We stopped by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) in Fairbanks. They are doing groundbreaking work designing and building homes that use 80 percent less energy than comparable homes, which is important for a state like Alaska where in many regions energy costs are extraordinarily high. I was proud to help the CCHRC establish a formal partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and so bringing the Secretary to see the significance of that type of collaboration was important. We also stopped at the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) where we talked with staff at the University of Alaska, ACEP, and the Arctic Energy Office. They are incredible thought leaders meeting with researchers who work on developing practical, cost effective and innovative energy solutions for places with non-integrated electric grids like Alaska.
“Within the MilCon-VA Appropriations bill that recently passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I directed funding to build out the physical infrastructure needed to support research and operations at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ERDC-CCREL Permafrost Tunnel up near Fairbanks. Year after year, through my senior role on Appropriations, I’ve helped secure significant funding for improvements to the permafrost tunnel research facility. Our visit helped Secretary Granholm and her team better understand the significant advances in scientific research that are taking place. We also stopped by the Chena Renewable Energy Fair—an annual event which promotes the groundbreaking work being done by Alaskans to harness the renewable energy potential across our state. In Anchorage we joined for a fireside chat with the National Hydropower Association’s Alaska Regional Conference to discuss Alaska’s untapped hydropower potential. We closed out our visit at the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, a program with great potential to help Alaska build out a strong future STEM workforce.
“My hope is that the Secretary will return to D.C. with a better-informed perspective on Alaska— our unique challenges and opportunities—and that information will help her better support our untapped energy potential.”
Chena Renewable Energy Fair
Senator Murkowski and Secretary Granholm attended the 15th annual Chena Renewable Energy Fair which showcased renewable energy technologies and sustainability. In addition to sharing remarks at the event, Senator Murkowski and Secretary Granholm heard from a number of energy industry leaders on topics including the Makushin Geothermal Project, advances in energy efficiency
Cold Climate Housing Research Center
Senator Murkowski aided the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) in providing Secretary Granholm with a deeper understanding of the unique challenges that Alaskans face as they grapple with energy challenges in some of the most remote locations in America. During their visit they heard from Robby Strunk, a Research Assistant from Quinhagak, Alaska who shared a personal testimony on the lack of housing in rural Alaska as well as real-life examples of the progress that CCHRC’s research is spurring in remote Alaskan communities.
During their visit to the Energy Research and Development Center’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory Permafrost Tunnel, Senator Murkowski and Secretary Granholm learned about the unique challenges that permafrost poses for construction and infrastructure, including trying to model a changing climate and adapt to those environmental changes as the permafrost thaws.
Alaska Center for Energy and Power
The Alaska Center for Energy and Power based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is dedicated to applied energy research and testing focused on lowering the cost of energy throughout Alaska and developing economic opportunities for the State, its residents, and its industries. During the visit, Senator Murkowski and Secretary Granholm heard from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the newly established Arctic Energy Office on their efforts to tackle the complex challenges of providing clean sustainable energy to rural Alaskan communities.
Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program
Started in 1995 as a scholarship program for university students, the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) has evolved into a sequential education model that provides a continuous string of opportunities to increase STEM education opportunities from the kindergarten to the Ph.D. level. In light of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) growing workforce in Alaska, Senator Murkowski facilitated this meeting to help educate Secretary Granholm on the growing need for a well-educated and prepared STEM workforce within the state. ANSEP has great potential to partner with the DOE in that effort.
National Hydropower Association Alaska Regional Meeting
Hydropower is one of the most abundantly developed renewable resources in Alaska, providing 25 percent of the electricity consumed in the state. Senator Murkowski and Secretary Granholm took part in a fireside chat at the National Hydropower Association’s Regional Alaska Meeting to discuss the benefits of hydropower in Alaska as well as the opportunity to build out this significant form of clean energy.
Fire Island Wind Project with Chugach Electric
Senator Murkowski helped facilitate a final stop on the Secretary’s schedule to Point Woronzof where she met with members of Chugach Electric to receive a briefing on their Fire Island Wind Project. The project includes eleven turbines which power up to 7,000 homes per year. The 17.6 megawatt project began providing power to the Anchorage area in 2012. Chugach Electric is looking to potentially expand the capabilities of Fire Island by increasing the number of turbines from eleven to thirty-three and laying an additional undersea transmission line.
- Chena Renewable Energy Fair: Senator Murkowski has attended nearly all of the Chena Renewable Energy Fairs since the event’s inception in 2006.
- Cold Climate Housing Research Center: Senator Murkowski has long supported CCHRC and has helped strengthen their partnership with the DOE. In 2020, Senator Murkowski helped establish a formal partnership between CCHRC and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).
- Permafrost Tunnel: In her role as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murkowski secured $5.4 million within the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 MilCon-VA Appropriations bill. Due to Senator Murkowski’s continued support, the permafrost tunnel has implemented a series of investments and upgrades—including expanding the existing tunnel and upgrading their facility—which will enable the facility to continue operating well into the future.
- Arctic Energy Office: One year ago today, Senator Murkowski welcomed an announcement from DOE that the Arctic Energy Office would be reopened. She directed DOE to reestablish the office, in partnership with the University of Alaska, through the FY 2020 and FY 2019 Appropriations Acts. Murkowski has again secured language in the FY 2022 Energy-Water Appropriations text to build out the Arctic Energy Office, including by promoting research, development, and deployment of power technology that is cost-effective and well-suited to meet the needs of rural and remote communities.
- Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program: In 2020, Senator Murkowski led a Delegation letter to then-Secretary Bernhardt asking him to designate ANSEP as a “Designated Partner Organization” which will allow ANSEP to benefit from the direct hire authorities from the Department which opens the door for more Alaskan STEM students to be hired into permanent positions at the Department of the Interior.
- Hydropower: Senator Murkowski has driven a number of hydropower related initiatives within the 117th Congress. In June 2020, she introduced the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectricity and River Restoration Act of 2021, legislation endorsed by the National Hydropower Association, which provides a 30 percent tax incentive to spur investments for safety, environmental, and grid resiliency upgrades for hydropower. Within the recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Murkowski secured $146.4 million for hydropower and marine energy research, which will support the Alaska Hydrokinetic Energy Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, as well as $34 billion for carbon capture and storage and related programs, hydropower funding, clean hydrogen, and civil nuclear credits—all of which have enormous significance for Alaska. In recognition of her efforts to drive hydropower initiatives forward, the National Hydropower Association recently selected Senator Murkowski as the recipient of their Waterpower Legacy Award.