Alaska regulators reject green power group’s request for utility data

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska, which oversees the state’s electrical utilities, has rejected an advocacy group’s request for the usage data of tens of thousands of individual customers of Chugach Electric Association, the Anchorage-based cooperative.

Renewable Energy Alaska Project, or REAP, had asked the commission to compel Chugach to produce the data amid a review of a recent proposal by the utility to raise its rates. REAP said it needed the information to propose an alternative new price structure for the utility — with the goal of conserving natural gas supplies amid an impending shortage.

Chugach and an array of other utilities had objected to the request, saying it would require too much work and represented an invasion of customers’ privacy. Conservative-leaning advocacy groups and media outlets sympathetic to the oil and gas industry also raised alarms about the potential release of the data.

In a decision last week, an administrative law judge appointed by the commission, Nolan Oliver, rejected REAP’s request. In his four-paragraph analysis, Oliver wrote that the group “has not sufficiently articulated the benefit that its rate design will provide beyond being an alternative proposal.”

Citing Chugach’s arguments that producing the data would require thousands of dollars and more than 100 hours of employee time, Oliver said that the “burden and expense” of producing the data would exceed its benefit.

In an email, Chris Rose, REAP’s executive director, said his group was disappointed with the decision, and with what he called Oliver’s inability “to provide a valid legal reason for rejecting our request for data essential to developing a rate design that promotes the conservation of natural gas, which state law requires.”

“With a Cook Inlet natural gas shortage looming, REAP will continue to work in the public interest to conserve the region’s quickly diminishing supply of local gas,” Rose wrote. “We hope Chugach Electric will cooperate with us to find a way to do that.”

This piece was originally published in Northern Journal, a newsletter published by Nathaniel Herz. Subscribe here.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at