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Energy policy group meets

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A group recently appointed by the mayors of the Tri-Borough Commission and charged with developing an energy policy for Southcentral Alaska by mid-January held its first meeting Tuesday in Anchorage.

The 10-member Energy Policy Task Force met with Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor John Williams, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich and Matanuska-Susitna Valley Deputy Mayor Lynn Woods.

The task force has been asked to review a draft document developed by Bill Popp, president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., and make recommendations for securing reliable and affordable energy for Southcentral homes and businesses. The policy also will focus on increased production, construction of a natural gas pipeline, and conservation.

It is expected that work on the draft will be conducted mostly by e-mail, but a second face-to-face meeting is planned as the project nears completion in January.

In a memo to the members, Popp, who is the former Kenai Peninsula Borough liaison to the oil and gas industry, noted that while the draft policy document focuses on Southcentral and the Railbelt, the mayors hope it would also address limited policies and goals appropriate for rural Alaska. He said he hoped that the task force could avoid the kinds of issues that have bogged down previous efforts to establish a statewide energy policy, and that the work would generate a parallel effort to develop an energy policy applicable to Bush Alaska.

Mayor Williams has said he would like to see the policy eventually presented to the Legislature.

"The biggest thing to come out of this, I hope, is formulation of a statewide energy policy, something that has not been accomplished in the past," he said in an interview following the meeting. "This is a time in our history when energy use is the most important topic facing Alaska, not only for personal use, but also for industry, economic development and job creation."

Williams said the initial meeting encouraged him, adding that there were "some good people" looking at the issues.

Mayor Williams appointed four members of the task force. They included Rick Eckert, manager of business development and regulatory affairs for Homer Electric Association; Rolf G. Manzek, operations manager for Tesoro Alaska Company; Rick Ross, a member of the Kenai City Council; and Jim Senn, business support manager for Agrium U.S.A. Inc.

Other members of the task force include:

* Tony Izzo, energy consultant/Anchorage Chamber of Commerce

* Don Page, Chevron

* Chris Rose, Renewable Energy Alaska Project

* Eric Yould, energy consultant

* Steve Colt, UAA/Institute of Social and Economic Research

* Jim Palin, former general manager of Matanuska Electric Association.

The draft policy notes that the tri-borough region has some 400,000 residents, about two-thirds of the state's entire population. The region also encompasses the vast majority of the state's roads and public infrastructure and is Alaska's commercial center.

But that region also faces uncertainty in its energy supply and energy costs, requiring a re-assessment of state energy needs for the short-, mid- and long-term. Indeed, as the draft suggests, Alaska now faces a fast-changing energy future driven by rising consumer demand and cost, concern for the safety of the energy supply, the growing influence of market forces, increased global competition, and the environmental impact of fossil fuels.

The draft currently proposes that Alaska actively promote development of nonrenewable energy resources including natural gas, coal, oil, gas hydrates, and heavy oil, as well as renewable resources such as tidal, geothermal, solar, wind and biomass.

It also proposes letting market forces to drive prudent use of energy, that the state pursue energy conservation and efficiency, and that the state's regulatory processes be streamlined.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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