Federal officials pass on Juneau’s bid for grant money to electrify cruise ship docks

Emissions from a Celebrity Cruises ship distort the air as it sails into Juneau in 2012. While docked, most cruise ships in Juneau have to keep burning fuel to generate electricity on board. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Juneau officials have put a lot of time and effort into studying what it would take to let cruise ships plug into the local electric grid when they are docked in town. That way, the ships wouldn’t have to burn fossil fuels all day in the harbor to keep their lights on.

One privately owned dock was electrified 20 years ago. City officials think it’ll cost $25 million to electrify the two city-owned ones.

Erich Schaal is an engineer for Juneau Docks and Harbors. He helped put together a 55-page federal grant application for the project this summer. But on Friday he found out they didn’t make the cut.

“Yeah, disappointed. Glad to see that so many of our Southeast neighbors were successful,” Schaal said.

The Department of Transportation did announce grants for similarly priced marine infrastructure projects in Cordova and Haines.

“I kinda just walked away in those three comparisons that the U.S. Department of Transportation chose to replace aging, failing infrastructure over improving new infrastructure, if you will,” Schaal said.

Still, Schaal thinks Juneau’s docks will be electrified, eventually.

“The value is pretty obvious, what it does for emissions and, you know, we have a very robust understanding of the fleet. And we know worldwide fleets are going more electrical,” he said.

The idea of assigning value to reduced greenhouse gas emissions is more than conceptual. For ranking purposes, the grant rules let communities calculate a dollar value for greenhouse gases that a project would offset. Schaal said that helped this project score well. And, it could be applied to other infrastructure grant opportunities to come.

Jeremy Hsieh

Local News Reporter, KTOO

I dig into questions about the forces and institutions that shape Juneau, big and small, delightful and outrageous. What stirs you up about how Juneau is built and how the city works?

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