Recently there was an article in the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer rolling out information on Alaska awardees of energy funds. This isn’t the first time that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Alaska, a non-farming state, monies; since 2009 USDA has granted a couple billion to just over 225 villages and towns in the state. Last week the article noted that the USDA’s Rural Development (State) announced nine grants of upwards to $16 million dollars that will go into helping Alaskan communities that pay over 275% the national average of household heating costs. Most American communities pay around a dime per kilowatt hour for electricity, whereas Alaska and Connecticut pay about double that- only to be surpassed by Hawaii (which has an average of 27 cents a kilowatt).
The focus is at the community scale (rather than assisting individuals with wind turbines or solar panels, for instance). The following were winners this year:
- Alaska Power & Telephone Company,
- Alaska Village Electric Co-Op,
- City of Grayling,
- City of Pilot Point,
- Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium,
- NANA Regional Corp.,
- New Koliganek Village Council,
- Asa’carsarmiut Tribe,
- Naterkaq Light Plant.
The improvements aren’t automatic. Just getting the right studies done can take months. Yet it is worth the wait as with a dwindling state budget the USDA can fill in the gaps fiscally. The main state funding mechanism in the past has been the Alaska Renewable Energy Fund which is a revolving project bank of efforts initiated toward better energy efficiency. It is almost a decade old and has allowed about a quarter of a million state dollars to be accompanied with almost as many federal and state dollars. It has been noted by the Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP) that this has been a very important program to be more efficient with the kilowatts produced and BTU’s burned!