January 2022 Back Page – Off to Juneau!

Posted: January 5, 2022

It is a new year and a new legislative session. The second regular session of the 32nd Alaska Legislature begins January 18, 2022. The AVEC Board and I are joining other electric utility managers from around the state for a trip to Juneau to visit with legislators, share knowledge, and advocate for legislation favorable to our membership. Our statewide trade organization, the Alaska Power Association, https://alaskapower.org, has organized meetings with legislators and presentations pertinent to the Alaska power industry.

Topics on the agenda include continued support for Power Cost Equalization (PCE); support for bills limiting utility liability for wildfire damage caused by trees outside of utility rights-of-way; and encouraging and leveraging state funds to capitalize on federal infrastructure funding to improve electrical infrastructure throughout the state.

A boom of federal money is expected to impact the state from the federal infrastructure bill, with possibly more funding to come from the reconciliation bill working its way through Congress. The already-signed bipartisan infrastructure bill includes billions of dollars for projects focused on clean energy, energy storage, demand response, energy data collection, grid modernization and energy resiliency. All items of interest and topics that AVEC has been working on for years. AVEC is aligning with national, state, and local partners to capture funding for projects throughout our communities.

As owners of the cooperative, members should know that AVEC is backing an important piece of state legislation that seeks to limit the cooperative’s liability for wildfire damage caused by trees outside our rights-of-way. Utilities are not authorized to clear or maintain trees outside of their rights-of way and should not be held liable for damages those trees may cause if they fall into our lines.

As with every legislative session, AVEC will be advocating for the protection and continuation of the Power Cost Equalization program (PCE). AVEC will be informing legislators and their staff of the critical foundation PCE provides in rural residents’ energy budgets and in maintaining community infrastructure. We’ll be reminding them of PCE’s intent to provide some equity to rural residents who do not receive benefit from state funded energy projects that bring down the cost of energy elsewhere in the state.

As the nights get shorter and the north is just beginning to tilt back toward the sun, I hope you are all staying healthy and warm.