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Content (C) 2008
Wrangell Sentinel
Published weekly by
Pilot Publishing, Inc.


SEAPA celebrates Ketchikan

intertie connection, looks ahead

Jessica Wacker

After moving their offices to Ketchikan, Southeast Alaska Power Agency (SEAPA), CEO Dave Carlson is looking forward to the future of energy for Southeast as well as celebrating the Swann/Tyee intertie this Friday.

“Somebody told me a long time ago that if you’re in the electric utility business and you’re not looking 20 years out, you’re not doing your job…It’s absolutely true. You’ve always got to tell yourself to look forward, look forward, look forward,” said Carlson when asked what was next on the table for SEAPA. “Hydropower is the cheapest, by far, alternative we have. People understand that, the rate payers understand that, so our goal is to keep hydro ahead of [the regional energy] load; That should be the goal of SEAPA.”

With over a decade of time for any project to be developed, Carlson noted that it was more than a challenge to project the game plan for regional hydropower development.

Part of understanding what needs the power agency will be addressing is the proposed Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to outline both the scope of the interconnected region as well as the diversity of various resources in the area. Carlson noted that Southeast did not have the same diversity of energy options as the lower 48, and expects the solution to be strongly based in hydropower. “We need to get somebody who has good integrated resource planning experience on board to work with us and work with member utilities, the communities and the stake holders in the region, to develop the scope of work to where everyone is really comfortable and on board with what we want to look at.”

One of the things potentially coming down the line for SEAPA member communities is a rate rebate—money given back to the cities and boroughs in accordance with their percentage of power usage. “I think some modest rebate may be in order,” he added.

However, noted Carlson, without the ability to insure hydro projects it is important to have at least $10 million set into a fund for unexpected costs. SEAPA currently has a line of credit for that amount with First Bank, but does not have the actual funds in place. “That’s kind of the issue the board will have to deal with,” said Carlson, explaining they will have to decide whether or not to rebate communities without the initial funds built up first.

These issues will be brought to the table during February’s board meeting, added Carlson.

As Alaska’s Railbelt looks to solve its regional energy problems, Carlson noted that the system implemented by SEAPA has been looked towards as an example of what they will need to implement. “What we did, it wasn’t easy at all; getting utilities to agree is very, very difficult. But it makes sense and we’ve really set the foundation for the region. It’s going to take work…but I think we’re ahead of the game; we’ve got, for the state, very, very attractive power rates, but they won’t be as attractive if we run out of hydro, so we’ve got to be looking out at the future.”

Future plans aside, SEAPA will be having a celebration to commemorate the completion of the Swan/Tyee intertie on Friday. Carlson expects to see a vast range of representation at the event, from U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and several others from the state legislature, to the Denali Commission and members of the involved communities.

“Sometimes a project is successful and this one is…We got it done under budget and ahead of schedule, and it’s working. That’s about the best you could ever hope for,” said Carlson.

SEAPA has also recently relocated their offices to Ketchikan, which was both difficult and necessary, noted Carlson. “It’s a big move. It’s very disruptive. We lost almost a month of work time…[but] it didn’t make any sense, us having an office in Anchorage.”

See print edition for complete local coverage. Content (C) 2010 Wrangell Sentinel