U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, last week released the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), her broad, bipartisan bill to modernize America’s energy laws. Murkowski intends to file the full text of AEIA as a substitute amendment to S. 2657, which is being debated on the Senate floor this week. The bipartisan energy innovation package has significant benefits for Alaskans.
“Alaska is a natural proving ground for new technologies and an incubator for innovation,” Murkowski said. “My new bill will help Alaskans pioneer new technologies, ranging from renewables to energy storage and even advanced nuclear, to help lower local energy costs. It will also protect our cybersecurity, enable Alaska to produce more of the minerals needed for clean technologies, and help us meet the rising threat of climate change.”
Among the provisions that will benefit Alaskans are:
Mineral Security – The United States depends on foreign sources for more than half of our supply of 46 different minerals, and relies completely on imports for our supply of 17 of them. AEIA reduces America’s dependence on foreign suppliers to ensure a secure and reliable supply of minerals that are critical to clean energy, manufacturing, and defense. Permitting reforms and increases for geological surveying will help Alaskans responsibly produce more of our world-class mineral base.
Energy Storage – Considered the “holy grail” of clean energy technology because it makes the grid cleaner, more resilient, and more affordable, energy storage captures power when it is cheapest and deploys it when it is most expensive—which ultimately helps lower energy bills. Anchorage and Cordova already use energy storage to serve their customers and AEIA will expand opportunities to deploy storage across Alaska.
Efficiency – AEIA promotes the use of energy-efficient technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. For Alaskans who spend nearly half of their income on energy, increasing efficiency is a top priority. AEIA reauthorizes the Weatherization Assistance Program, which has supported hundreds of jobs across Alaska and substantially reduced energy bills for low-income families. The bill also promotes combined heat and power technologies and establishes a program to increase the efficiency of public schools.
Cybersecurity – Our nation’s critical energy infrastructure is under increased threat of cyber-attack. AEIA provides grants to rural communities to improve cybersecurity defenses and ensure the continued delivery of reliable electricity, which the Alaska Power Association has identified as a priority issue for communities throughout the state.
Solar and Wind – Wind and solar are growing sources of energy for places like Willow and Kotzebue. AEIA boosts solar and wind energy research and development, and ensures these resources can be effectively deployed in rural areas.
Geothermal – Alaska has the second-highest capacity for geothermal energy in the country, though that potential is largely untapped. AEIA promotes and updates geothermal research and development to adequately evaluate Alaska’s potential. The bill also allows for a program to develop geothermal energy in regions that need it most.
Marine Energy and Hydropower – Alaska has the nation’s longest shoreline, which means it has significant potential to produce marine and hydrokinetic energy. AEIA reauthorizes the marine and hydrokinetic energy program at the Department of Energy (DOE) to focus on the latest technologies. The bill also extends incentives to install electric generation capacity at non-producing dams. Both sections could help additional Alaska communities harness their local water resources to produce clean, renewable energy.
Advanced Nuclear – Advanced nuclear reactors have the potential to transform energy systems in rural Alaska while reducing the cost of energy, providing reliable power, and decreasing emissions from diesel generators. Small micro-reactors have just a few moving parts and can operate for up to a decade at a time without refueling. AEIA directs DOE to run two demonstration projects for advanced reactors by 2025.
Microgrids and Hybrid Microgrids – Alaska is home to roughly 12 percent of the world’s microgrid systems, including many that operate on renewable energy. AEIA directs the Department of Energy to develop a program to promote the development of hybrid microgrid systems for isolated communities, like those located throughout Alaska, to increase their resilience and help lower costs.
State Loan Program Eligibility – AEIA extends access to DOE’s loan guarantee program for qualified state financing entities, which in Alaska would include the Alaska Energy Authority. DOE’s loan guarantee program offers low-interest loans that the state could use to finance a number of small projects, which will in turn reduce costs for communities and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Workforce Development – AEIA establishes a clean energy workforce development grant program that would support pre-apprenticeships and on-the-job training for companies or nonprofits working in renewable energy or emissions reduction.