Conference critical of regional energy plan

A roadmap for Southeast Alaska energy development is meeting some resistance from the Southeast Conference.

The regional organization’s Energy Committee passed a resolution Tuesday supporting parts of the state-funded Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Plan. But it called for continued work toward a regional electrical grid, which the draft plan calls too expensive.

Merrill Sanford chairs the Southeast Conference Energy Committee. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld.

Committee Chairman Merrill Sanford of Juneau said the Alaska Energy Authority plan lacks some important elements.

“This is not a fix-all by any means. But I think we’re at a crossroads here and we have to do something. We have to move forward with something,” Sandford said.

The resolution calls for construction of five hydropower plants – Sitka’s Blue Lake, Ketchikan’s Whitman Lake, Hydaburg’s Reynolds Creek, Angoon’s Thayer Lake and Hoonah’s Gartina Creek.

It also supports two new powerlines – one from Petersburg to Kake, the other from Metlakatla to Ketchikan.

But many at the meeting objected to its emphasis on wood-powered space heaters as a way to reduce electrical demand.

Wrangell's Paul Southland speaks as Juneau's Bill Corbus,center, and Angoon Mayor Albert Howard listen during debate over the Southest energy plan. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld.

Angoon Mayor Albert Howard said biomass energy should not replace long-planned, much-needed powerlines and plants.

“You talk about a Johnny-come-lately project, biomass is it. Where did that come from? Southeast Conference has talked about interties for years and all of a sudden, we’ve got biomass,” Howard said.

The resolution supports wood-powered energy, especially as part of Southeast’s timber industry.

But it makes other projects a higher priority.

It also calls for full funding for studies of other hydroprojects. And it emphasizes the need to build regionwide electrical interties, including a cross-border link to Canada’s power grid.

The Southeast Conference is holding its mid-session summit in Juneau. Its board of directors will take up the resolution before the plan’s March 19th comment deadline. The draft plan was developed by an Alaska Energy Authority contractor.

Hear a report on the SEIRP.