Once I consider Alaska, two phrases instantly come to thoughts: innovation and power. Alaskans are, by necessity, usually artistic downside solvers, with a historical past of innovation deeply ingrained in our tradition.
Our identification and our financial system are deeply linked to our function as an power exporter. But on the identical time, we are also closely reliant on power to outlive in an usually chilly, harsh local weather. So, whereas we’re a significant power exporter, we’re additionally an power importer.
For instance, we’re closely reliant on imported gas oil to offer warmth and energy to lots of our far-flung communities. And that imported gas is shipped over lengthy distances, at prices tied to world markets over which we now have little management.
That’s why geopolitical conditions just like the tragic struggle in Ukraine have a direct impression on a group like Noatak, the place escalating world gas costs have triggered the latest shipments to skyrocket to $14 per gallon.
For these causes, the Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference developing Could 24-26 in Anchorage that’s being organized by Gov. Mike Dunleavy couldn’t be occurring at a extra necessary time.
I applaud the administration for main this dialog and bringing Alaskans along with specialists from world wide to debate subjects starting from renewable power potential in Alaska, to micronuclear know-how, to electrical autos and to new types of energy technology and power storage.
Alaska is analyzing an “all the above” power technique.
Alaska has the potential to occupy a essential function within the present power transition. We’re centrally positioned within the Pacific area from a delivery and air logistics perspective. A great portion of delivery site visitors within the North Pacific skirts Alaskan waters.
The Ted Stevens Worldwide Airport is without doubt one of the prime 5 busiest cargo hubs on this planet. Whereas we now have lengthy sought markets for our pure fuel, maybe we may pivot to additionally meet worldwide demand for decrease carbon fuels comparable to blue and inexperienced hydrogen within the type of artificial fuels like ammonia or methanol.
Rethinking our function as an power exporting state throughout the context of a world power transition to a internet zero carbon financial system provides us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves.
In relation to home methods for power manufacturing and use, Alaska can also be an unintentional innovator. Alaska has by no means had an built-in electrical grid. As an alternative, we depend on native microgrids to offer energy to ALL Alaskans.
Even the Railbelt grid is only a sequence of unbiased however linked providers areas, or microgrids. It seems by not gaining access to the identical infrastructure as everybody else, we’ve needed to get actually good at creating and sustaining native, distributed power sources.
This necessity has translated into Alaska being a world chief in microgrid applied sciences, small resilient islands of energy.
At present, Alaska leads the U.S. in whole microgrid capability with over 3,500 megawatts of put in capability, with some microgrids regularly working for a century or extra. Renewables have been built-in into these energy methods to scale back ongoing gas prices and to make them extra resilient and sustainable. We’ve been studying about what works – and what doesn’t.
I’m enthusiastic about attending this convention. It offers an opportunity to be taught, an opportunity to showcase our strengths and an opportunity to convey collectively thought leaders and strange Alaskans to consider our future as not solely Alaskans, however collectively as world residents.
In the long run, solely by sharing our successes – and failures – can we as a society sort out the urgent issues going through the world. Vitality is intertwined with so many features of life. The struggle in Ukraine is only one instance of how we’re all interconnected, even when our energy methods may be completely unbiased from a standard grid.
It’s time to assume outdoors the field and proceed with the pioneering spirit that has served the state so properly and which has the capability to form the broader world of power each at house, and overseas.
Gwen Holdmann is the Director of the Alaska Heart for Vitality and Energy on the College of Alaska Fairbanks.
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