OPINION: Alaska’s future is energy diversity

Energy has joined education and a comprehensive fiscal plan as a key issue confronting the Legislature. Southcentral Alaska faces a looming energy shortage that will lead to rising costs for ratepayers, including every household, business, school, and local government. These higher costs will ripple outward from Anchorage to the whole state.

To solve our pressing energy crunch, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has endorsed an “all of the above” strategy. I introduced House Bill (HB) 349 to meet the governor’s call to action. I offer this bill to help create more energy options for our state and set out rules of the road to aid investors in bringing more energy to Alaskans.

The private sector is already developing renewable energy projects on state land. Renewables are already expected to start providing upwards of 120-150 megawatts of power to the grid by 2027. But currently, state land leased for renewable projects is treated differently than oil and gas development, creating barriers to additional energy development.

HB 349 creates a uniform policy environment for energy by providing the same statutory tools for renewable energy projects that we currently have for oil and gas development. A level playing field creates an attractive environment for private investment that would invite more producers into the market to provide more energy and lower rates for Alaskans.

The legislation will enable better utilization of our public lands to address our energy crisis and potentially find new revenue sources. HB 349 wouldn’t solve our energy crisis on its own, but with a projected zero fiscal impact, this is a no-cost, big-reward bill.

We need to think broadly and creatively to deal with this energy challenge. Resource extraction will always be in the picture, but oil and gas can’t save us alone. Alaska needs energy of all types, including oil and gas and renewables such as wind, hydro, solar, tidal, geothermal and biomass. If we can solve our energy crisis today, we can communicate to the world that Alaska is a good place to produce all kinds of energy.

Cliff Groh represents House District 18, which includes all of Government Hill; most of Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER); and the northern-most portions of Muldoon, Downtown, Fairview, and Mountain View. First elected in 2022, he is a freshman member of the Alaska House Coalition (also called the House Minority Caucus) and a lifelong Alaska resident.

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