State releases report on local energy resources

Goal is to help communities make decisions, official says.

Associated PressSeptember 7, 2012 

The state released a report Friday aimed at helping Alaska communities better understand their potential for fossil fuel or geothermal resource development.

Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan said high energy costs are a concern for many communities and the report's goal is to help them make decisions when it comes to energy that could be used for their local needs. State Geologist Bob Swenson said communities can't make those decisions if they're left guessing whether they have the potential for such things as natural gas or coal-bed methane development.

The report is a complement to an earlier compilation on renewable resources statewide. Swenson said it is intended to help with the overall analysis of what might work for a community -- be it renewable or nonrenewable resources.

"The good news from these reports is that most areas of the state have some potential for local energy production, from renewable or non-renewable sources, or a combination," he said in a news release.

Officials, speaking to reporters from Anchorage on Friday, see the report as being useful to regional planners, and Sullivan said the state also will reach out to Alaska Native, village and regional corporations, to make them aware of it. Also appearing with Swenson and Sullivan was Sara Fisher-Goad, executive director of the Alaska Energy Authority.

The report, a summary of available information, breaks down the fossil fuel and geothermal potential by region. It also makes recommendations regarding resources that have potential, need additional study or aren't viable or worth pursuing.

For example, on the North Slope, known for its prodigious oil and gas fields, an abundance of coal in the western part of the region -- including Point Lay, Point Hope, Wainwright and Atqasuk -- could meet local energy needs, the report states.

"If commercial development proceeded, there is a sufficient resource base to support a power plant feeding other communities along the western Arctic coast," the report says. It also notes the "nontrivial difficulties" associated with development in an extreme climate and that the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is closed to coal mining.

The report can be found online.

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