Seaton proposes energy credit for alternative power

Posted: Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rep. Paul Seaton has pre-filed a bill to encourage small-scale, alternative energy power generation in Alaska by requiring electrical utilities to offer customers the option of installing net-metering systems.

Such installations would calculate the electricity produced by private wind, solar, tidal, geothermal or other alternative energy sources employed by consumers, and apply a kilowatt-hour credit against the consumer's bill.

"This common sense approach to energy billing gives utilities, homeowners and businesses the option to save a good deal of money," Seaton said in a memo released Jan. 4.

If lawmakers pass the legislation, House Bill 288, Alaska would join 45 other states using some form of net metering.

Small-scale power generation would help decrease the need for new fossil fuel power plants, Seaton said.

Gov. Sarah Palin has created a subcabinet to address the issue of climate change, and the Legislature has formed a task force to study the impacts of climate change, Seaton noted. Meanwhile, municipal governments are adopting plans to mitigate local greenhouse gas production.

"Alaska is blessed with boundless renewable energy," he said. "HB 288 will provide individual Alaskans with a tool to minimize their personal CO2 output."

The bill would require utilities to provide a net-metering system capable of measuring the flow of electricity in two directions at the same fee as a standard meter if a customer operates or owns a generation facility that is located on the customer's premises, has a capacity of not more than 25 kilowatts, uses solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, or hydropower as a fuel, operates in parallel with the distribution facilities of the retail supplier of electricity, and is intended primarily to offset part or all of the customer's requirements for electricity.

If customers generate more energy than he or she consumes, the retail supplier would be required to credit the customers for any excess kilowatt-hours, and reduce the customer's fees in the next billing period or periods.

Also, under Seaton's bill, a customer could sell those energy credits.

The provisions of the bill would not apply to a retail supplier generating all of its power by alternative means, except that such a supplier could use carbon fuels for emergency or standby power.

Homer Electric Association Spokesman Joe Gallagher said Monday that corporate officials were aware of the legislation and that Seaton and his staff had contacted the utility for feedback about how it might be crafted.

Gallagher said the HEA Board would review it in more detail, but at this time was not opposed. He also said only one person currently on the HEA system would be in a position to take advantage of such a program. That customer has a wind turbine in Nikiski, he said.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net



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