At Tuesday’s annual meeting, Golden Valley Electric Association officers loudly blamed environmental groups for slowing down or blocking the re-opening of the Healy No. 2 coal plant.
GVEA neglected to say that the lawsuit filed by these groups simply asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make sure the state Department of Environmental Conservation reviews the permit properly instead of just rubber-stamping it.
In other words, “those damned environmentalists” — let’s call them TDEs — are working on behalf of all Alaskans to keep the air we breathe and the water we drink clean and healthy.
GVEA touts a strong environmental ethic, then trots out its small, token wind farm proposal at Eva Creek (among the cleanest forms of energy) in order to justify Healy 2, the dirtiest form of energy. GVEA touts energy efficiency in its brochures and public documents, but raises the rates to consumers for having used less electricity (see November Ruralite). Some incentive that is. Worse, they give lower rates to the highest users, encouraging waste over efficiency. We residential and small business consumers of GVEA’s product are subsidizing the low rates Fort Knox and other large users are charged. And now they want to extend a 70 megawatt line to Livengood, more than Healy 2 will produce; there goes your lower electric bill, folks.
TDEs pay the rising electrical costs, too. We support adding as much renewable energy power to the grid as possible. But mostly we are trying to conserve as much electricity as possible. This is not about turning off our lights or turning down the heat.
GVEA could play a very important role in lowering our electrical costs (not necessarily rates, but costs). A great way for GVEA to gracefully give up its obsession with cheap coal would be to actively embrace even cheaper conservation and efficiency standards, not by just suggesting them, but by facilitating them in these ways:
• If GVEA provided its Home$ense and Business$ense programs free to all consumers we could all save a lot of money.
• Promoting the fact that the cheapest kilowatt hour of electricity is the one you do not use, GVEA could ramp up its energy conservation services to include small low interest loans for home and business owners to upgrade their electrical appliances and lighting to the highest efficiency standards. In many cases, the amount of money saved on monthly electric bills is enough to pay for the loan. This is the basic idea behind an energy service company, which GVEA already is. The $90 million-plus needed to restart Healy 2 could retrofit many thousands of buildings in Fairbanks to higher electrical efficiency standards.
• If GVEA structured rates so customers reducing their usage got lower rates per kwh, that would be even better.
If GVEA were to establish such an efficiency mandate, TDEs could get behind that one in a heartbeat; we might save 15 percent in generation capacity, Healy 2 would not be needed, and we could all breathe easier. And, most important to the average consumer, the savings are real and can begin in days, weeks or months.
I have lowered my electrical use by more than a third in the past four years with no inconveniences. I choose to ask GVEA some questions of my own, all falling under the category of “Why doesn’t GVEA work for me rather than against me?”
Why are consumer rates raised in response to greater efficiency by those consumers?
Why is the conversation always about supply (new coal plants) and rarely about demand (increased conservation and efficiency)?
Why doesn’t GVEA actively pursue energy efficiency through small energy service company-type loans to reduce its need for increased generation capacity?
Since GVEA’s Home$ense and Business$ense programs yield about 15 percent savings per customer, why doesn’t it expand those programs to every customer for free and help everyone lower their bill?
If GVEA does start Healy 2, just exactly where is that power going to go — to your home and mine, or to Fort Knox, Pogo or Livengood?
TDEs welcome reasoned discourse about this. People who hide behind monikers on the Internet are just yelling over the fence. If you have a point to make, please, let’s sit down and talk about it face to face. That’s the only way to actually get anything done