U.S. DOE requests information on clean energy for remote Alaska

By U.S. DOE | September 30, 2015

Remote Alaskan communities face a number of unique energy challenges. The combination of harsh climate with the remoteness of communities accessible only by boat or plane contributes to high energy costs. In Alaska, the unsubsidized cost of heating oil in July 2015 averaged $5.27 per gallon, and in some regions, up to $9 per gallon.2 The average electricity cost is more than $0.50 per kilowatt hour (kWh), reaching as high as $1.50 per kWh in some villages.3 Energy use in rural Alaska is dominated by use of liquid fuels for space heating and transportation. In rural communities, more than 80% of energy may be used for heating.4 Energy efficiency improvements can impact both heating and electricity end-uses, and can help Alaskans reduce their energy costs, and increase energy reliability.

The U.S. DOE is proposing a new initiative to significantly accelerate adoption of sustainable clean and energy efficiency strategies in remote rural Alaskan communities. For the purposes of this initiative, “remote or rural areas” include communities with a population of 5,500 or less that are not connected by an all-weather road or rail to Anchorage or Fairbanks, or with a population of 1,500 or less that are connected by road or rail to Anchorage or Fairbanks. Through the proposed competitive process, the Remote Alaskan Communities Energy Efficiency Competition is being designed to empower Alaskan communities to develop solutions for effectively advancing the use of reliable, affordable, and energy efficient solutions that are applicable throughout rural communities in Alaska and potentially in other Arctic regions.

On Sept. 30, DOE issued a request for information (RFI_) to help shape the design of the newly proposed initiative. Aligning with President Obama's commitment to combat climate change and assist remote Alaskan Communities, the goal of the proposed $4 million initiative is to significantly accelerate efforts by remote Alaskan communities to adopt sustainable energy strategies, through a competitive effort to elicit the best approaches.

"The Energy Department is committed to helping Alaskan communities develop clean, affordable and reliable energy options," said Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency.

The Department's Office of Indian Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced the RFI during the Association of Village Council Presidents Annual Convention in Bethel, Alaska. The RFI is intended to gather feedback from Alaskan remote rural community leaders, village councils, community organizations, energy service companies, and other government and non-government organizations to ensure the goals and activities of the initiative are relevant to remote, rural Alaskan communities. Issues of interest include competition design, community energy needs, energy consumption data collection, and partnership needs.

"Maximizing the development and deployment of scalable clean energy solutions that address climate and energy challenges of Alaska Native villages is a high priority for our office—not only because it's central to our mission but because our work in rural Alaska will put rural Alaskans on the cutting edge of solving the broader energy challenges faced by remote, islanded communities throughout the Arctic region and around the world," said Chris Deschene, Director of the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs.

In the Arctic region, DOE supports efforts to improve energy delivery, and reliability, deploy efficient and renewable energy solutions, improve understanding of and addressing the impacts of climate change in the region, and protect the environment. This proposed initiative builds on existing programs supporting rural communities in Alaska, such as the Office of Indian Energy's work with Alaska Native Villages.

 The full RFI and additional information can be found here. Responses are due by 5:00 p.m. EST on Oct. 30, 2015, and may be submitted directly to AlaskaCompetition@hq.doe.gov.