Updated: 2 hours ago Published: 2 hours ago
Alaskans pay a heavy price for the energy we use – higher than almost anywhere else in the country. Our energy costs us almost double what the average American pays per kilowatt, making Alaska second only to Hawaii with the highest energy costs in the United States. Across the state, expensive energy results in a high cost of living for Alaskan residents and may force families to choose between heating their homes and putting out food. However, our high energy costs us beyond our energy bills. Due to the high energy costs, industrial development consciously refrains from settling in Alaska.
Aside from squeezing Alaskan households and deterring economic development, our energy – most of which comes from fossil fuels – adds to the even worse threat that climate change poses to Alaska. A recent report shows that Alaska's temperatures are warming two to three times the average of the rest of the world, and we're already seeing the effects of melting glaciers, thawing permafrost, and acidic oceans, not to mention the hundreds of millions Dollars It is predicted that climate change will cost Alaska's residents every year.
Alaska aims to have 50% renewable energy by 2025. We're at around 30% in 2019, so there's still a lot to do. As uncertain as a renewable energy-powered future may be for a state born out of the fossil fuel industry, the transition to renewable energy offers a myriad of opportunities that can affect the lives of all Alaskans, including job creation in a wide range. of professions. From electricians and heavy machinery operators to engineers and site managers to accountants and lawyers, the renewable energy industry has broad potential for creating jobs while supporting local businesses with equipment rentals, shipping and logistics, and materials sourcing.
Renewable energy has established itself in Alaska over the past decade. More than 100 companies are currently working in the state to promote, maximize, or otherwise use renewable energy. In 2019, there were 260 renewable energy projects across the state, benefiting 160 communities. Alaskans' operational expertise also makes the state attractive to investors, as a renewable asset maintenance startup recently raised $ 3 million from national investors. Since 2010, nearly $ 700 million has been invested in renewable energy projects across the state, with every $ 1 million invested supporting 15 to 20 construction jobs. The renewable energy industry has grown in recent years to fund 40% of Alaska's all-electric power generation jobs.
And that is just the beginning. As a state, we have considerable potential for renewable raw materials. Alaska offers enormous opportunities for hydropower and biomass algae production in the country, 90% of the tidal energy resources of the United States, room for large-scale growth at the micro level in an already established wind energy sector, solar resources comparable to the world's leading provider of solar energy in Germany and the beginnings of geothermal energy -Business in Unalaska.
Long story short: Alaska is rich in renewable energies.
This wealth is valuable as it translates into economic progress throughout the state. Renewable energy development can be a win-win situation across the state, offering job creation opportunities across rural Alaska as well as in the urban centers. Even better, our state already has a highly skilled power generation workforce whose skills are suitable for renewable energy jobs – jobs that are much lower risk than traditional fossil fuels. Especially in rural communities, the skilled jobs that require renewable energy projects provide significant sources of income in places where jobs may be difficult to find.
In addition, replacing expensive diesel electricity with inexpensive electricity from renewable energies improves the self-sufficient and financial sustainability of our rural communities.
Renewable energy development will drive and support local economic development across Alaska and promote state-level growth. Clean, sustainable energy can be an instrument for achieving our economic goals in the future as well.
While our historically high energy costs have kept economic and industrial investment away, renewable energies appear to be reversing that trend. With wind, solar, hydropower, and several other renewable industries burgeoning, Alaska has the potential to lead the world in the clean energy transition. Oil and gas shaped Alaska's past – now is the time for renewable energies to shape Alaska's future.
Piper Foster Wilder is the founder and CEO of 60Hertz Energy, a computerized maintenance management system software company headquartered in Anchorage that serves customers worldwide. Jenn Miller is the CEO of Renewable IPP, a company that develops, constructs and operates utility solar systems. Jenn is a former oil and gas engineer.
The co-authors recently participated in an online dialogue as part of The Nature Conservancy's Climate Opportunities Assessment in Alaska – an ongoing effort bringing together Alaskan leaders and stakeholders on the climate, the opportunities arising from the climate, bipartisan solutions and the long-term health of the Last Frontier. Find out more and watch the dialogue between the co-authors on the Nature Conservancy website.
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