GVEA board meeting: September 23, 2019

Summing up the GVEA September 23rd Board Meeting is a bit of a challenge for me because I’m new at it and Alaska’s past and future concerning energy seems complicated. That said, it was fascinating and I strongly recommend the experience. I’ll be there next month and I hope you will be there with me. There were a few mysteries in this meeting, and because of that, this summary may briefly, (for the sake of clarity), drop down a few rabbit holes. Be not afraid, one way or another we are all going solar, wind and wave.

The meeting began with a Safety Moment focusing on the hazards of driving and texting. Member comments followed, all three commentaries were in favor of expanding our dependence on renewable energy resources over the use of fossil fuels. Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, The Renewable Lunch Bunch, and Alaska Energy Transparency Project were all represented. The following were their voiced concerns:

 Renewable Energy Lunch Bunch

•   Encouraged upgrading grid from Cantrell to Delta, it will cost but can bring in more renewable energy.

•   Fairbanks should continue to lead the state in renewable energy.

•   Push for TRANSCO.

•   Installation of car charging stations in Fairbanks. Electric cars are viable in Fairbanks due to car/battery warming plug-ins already distributed throughout Fairbanks.

•   Increasing the size of GVEA’s solar array.

•   Time of use charging.


Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition

•   In favor of renewable energy.

     Member comments were followed by New Business.  First, came a safety report from Caterpillar Safety. This report focused on employees’ “perception of job safety.” It’s the first safety survey done at GVEA since 2012. Salient features of the report were:

•     Power plant frontline employees have a significantly lower “perception” of safety than management.

•     There were 73 questions, of which 30 say need immediate attention.

The Board then approved an average wage increase for GVEA’s employees followed by a 3% rate increase for its customers. A great deal of discussion followed in regard to a consistent trend in loss of sales of kilowatt hours. This was attributed to increased use of LEDs and in small part to the increase in home and business installation of solar arrays.

Next on the agenda was an approval to pursue installing the road belt electrical line. This is a mixed bag. It would support :

•     17 small communities along the line that are presently using diesel and other expensive fuels.

•     The expansion of military bases.

•     Pump stations for the pipeline.

 You can read the full bill at  AK HJR10 Supporting Road Belt Electrical Line


 The Sterling fire has effectively cut the state off from power being produced by the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Dam. It’s an expensive fix because the 109 wooden poles that burned have to be replaced with metal poles. It’s estimated that Homer is burning $20,000 worth of diesel per day to stabilize their grid. GVEA is advocating creating a ‘mini TRANSCO” with previously willing, (but legislatively failed), TRANSCO partners to offset the cost. That needs to happen quickly because the poles need to be ordered within the next 10 days as of September 23rd, in order to facilitate timely delivery for winter construction. Otherwise, the project will wait at least a year.

Written by Kathryn Utley