Over the past few weeks I have been working through Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP’s) Rural Issues Committee to support funding for the Village Energy Efficiency Program (VEEP) in the Governor’s Budget.

About VEEP:

Over the past decade the State has funded the program; which was managed through the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA). In FY 14, VEEP was funded to the tune of $1.2 million to fund seven different rural communities (out of 84 applicants) across Alaska to implement energy efficiency measures in public buildings, school districts, and tribal offices. These funds have successfully leveraged additional local and federal resources and will save the State millions more over the next ten years. By providing funding for efficiency measures that allow a community to leverage their own resources and manpower against the state’s funding we can collaboratively reduce the cost to run school districts, city offices, washeterias, tribal offices and clinics.

This program offers opportunities to southeast communities, many of which suffer from diesel dependency and high-energy costs. Last year I worked with a high energy cost Southeast community to submit an application to VEEP. This program has high demand and an impressive payback ($3 return for every $1 invested, according to AEA). I will continue to work with the Rural Issues Committee and Southeast communities to support further funding for VEEP and welcome others to join us.

Hoonah: A Hotbed for Entrepreneurship?

Working with the Hoonah Indian Association has allowed me to be involved in the many opportunities for localized, clean energy in Hoonah. In October, I spent some time in Hoonah with HIA discussing different opportunities with consultants looking at various outside the box possibilities. John Hillman of Hoonah Indian Association likes to say that if it can’t be done in Hoonah, it can’t be done anywhere.

Gartina Falls, Photo Courtesy of Bethany Goodrich

Gartina Falls, Photo Courtesy of Bethany Goodrich

Currently, a district loop sends waste heat from the Inside Passage Electric Cooperative’s (IPEC’s) generators to multiple buildings downtown, including the school and pool. IPEC is also in the midst of constructing a hydroelectric project, Gartina Falls Hydro, which is expected to supply about 30% of the community’s electricity with clean, local, inexhaustible renewable energy. There are certainly more energy efficiency and biomass opportunities in Hoonah, and I am excited to work with Hoonah Indian Association, the City of Hoonah, Icy Strait Lumber and Huna Totem on the vision for a sustainable localized energy plan. The community’s enthusiasm and collaborative efforts are vital as they seek sustainable energy solutions for future generations.