Sen. Murkowski Highlights Alaska’s Leadership in Energy Innovation

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, this week highlighted the energy innovation occurring in some of Alaska’s most isolated communities as local leaders seek to reduce the cost of electricity through a variety of cutting-edge technologies.

Click here to view video of Thursday’s event

Speaking Thursday at an event hosted by The Hill newspaper on microgrids and innovation, Murkowski said that integrating a mix of local renewable resources – hydro and wind, chiefly – is a way for many Alaska communities to cut their dependence on expensive diesel that must be shipped in. About 70 communities in Alaska have reportedly integrated renewable energy with traditional diesel generation.

“Alaska has dozens of isolated communities that aren’t within a hundred miles of an electric grid. Every one of them relies on a microgrid because they have no other choice, and the cost of energy for those communities is extremely high,” said Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Murkowski also noted that “Hybrid microgrids don’t make sense for everyone, but for more and more Alaska communities, integrating renewables and storage is a viable option. They’re doing it to reduce their diesel use – to lower their heating and electricity costs, gain a little more control over their supply, and increase its reliability. Microgrids are also being used to connect villages that are close to each other, which vastly increases their options if a generator goes down. That can be a matter of life and death due to the harsh winters in rural Alaska.”

Murkowski highlighted the community of Kodiak, which is currently producing 99.7 percent of its electricity from renewable energy. Kodiak’s isolated microgrid uses wind, hydro, batteries, and a flywheel to generate power.

“It is the perfect example for the rest of the country to follow,” Murkowski said. “Kodiak’s renewable energy use is not only reducing its dependence on diesel, it is also spurring economic growth by lowering the cost of power in the community considerably.”

Murkowski has long supported advancing the use of microgrid technology in Alaska. She also included a provision to promote microgrid technology in the broad, bipartisan energy bill reported 18-4 by the energy committee earlier this year.