In the past year, the community of Juneau has twice faced an energy crisis with the interruption of Snettisham hydroelectric power. Juneau’s legislative delegation is working hard to bring stability back to the community. We have put this website together to let you know what’s going on at all levels. We thank everyone who has been working hard to help our community weather this disaster.
INFORMATION updated June 10, 2008
On Monday January 12, 2009 an avalanche again took down the Snettisham transmission line that supplies with electricity. The avalanche knocked out one of the same structures destroyed during massive avalanches in April. A sudden raise in temperature following a heavy snowfall caused the more recent avalanche. While AEL&P dropped bombs to create smaller avalanches to mitigate the danger to other towers, weather prevented them from bombing the avalanche chute in question. Juneau
AEL&P completed repairs to the line Sunday February 2, 2009, restored hydro power to at 5:50 p.m. Engineers successfully bypassed the tower that was hit by the slide. The bypass of the tower will be permanent due to the high risk of avalanche in that particular location. Juneau
Estimated repair costs are approximately $1 million. AEL&P plans to file an Emergency Cost of Power Adjustment (ECOPA) of about 15 cents with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) later this week. This will result in an effective rate of 25 cents per kwh for residential customers. The ECOPA is to cover the cost of the diesel that was burned while hydro power was interrupted. All rate payers will pay this higher rate for one month’s billing cycle only.
While the state owns Snettisham and its transmission lines, AEL&P is responsible for maintenance and repair. It is the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s (AIDEA’s) responsibility to ensure the repairs happen. The RCA typically allows such costs to be passed on to ratepayers, and it is usually passed on over a long period of time so that the effect on our monthly bills is minimal.
A study is underway looking at possible options to protect from further avalanche-induced energy crises, including using concrete diverters to make towers avalanche resistant or bypassing particularly avalanche-prone areas with underwater cables. Each option will come with a list of pros and cons, including cost considerations. Juneau
Information from April's Energy Crisis
On April 16, 2008, two avalanches wiped out 1.5 miles of line from the Snettisham hydroelectric plant and several transmission towers. Our community is facing much higher electricity costs because we were supplied with power via diesel generators for a month and a half.
CBJ Lessons Learned Commission Announces Public Hearing
The Lessons Learned Commission is seeking public response to their draft report to the mayor about the handling of the spring avalanches and the resulting loss of hydropower fromSnettisham. Copies of the report will be available for public perusal on or before August 15, 2008 at www.juneau.org/energy/lessonslearned .
Before a final document is submitted to the mayor, the commission will hold a public hearing to learn from the comments and observations of the community. This hearing will be on Wednesday, August 20, 7 p.m. in the CBJ Assembly Chambers. “Insights from the public most assuredly will affect the final document,” says Sally Smith, chair of the three-member commission. She says that the document ultimately will serve as a guide for handling a future, similar event and that it is through the public’s stated experience that the document can offer a valid assessment of what works and what doesn’t.
At the hearing Commissioners Bob Martin, Rick Edwards, and Sally Smith will be joined by Mike Conway of Mac Services, who is writing the report on behalf of the commission. Assisting Conway will be Dave Eley.
The hearing panel is requesting that each person or group plan for presentations of 3 minutes or less, citing observations about the draft document, their personal circumstances related to the handling of the situation, and/or suggestions for defining responses for a future, similar event. Those with in depth, detailed observations are encouraged to submit them in writing and then highlight their findings during the hearing.
To close the evening the commission has asked AEL&P to present a short slide show that documents the reconstruction of the site.
The commission will revise the draft report on Lessons Learned after considering information received from the August 20 hearing. A final draft will be reviewed at the commission’s meeting scheduled for September 17 at CBJ, and it is expected that the completed report will be delivered to Mayor Bruce Botelho on September 19, 2008.
June Electric Rates Will Be Lower Than Expected
On June 10, AEL&P announced that the second month of emergency cost of power adjustment (COPA) has been filed with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA). The new total rate for June 16 through July 15 will be 11.4 cents per kilowatt hour. This will be the final emergency COPA associated with the Snettisham shut down.
The current rate of 52.5 cents per kilowatt hour will continue until June 15. If you have not gotten your bill reflecting the current high rate, you will still receive a bill at that rate and the following bill will be at the lower rate.
Snettisham Hydroelectric Facility Back On Line
AEL&P announced that the Snettisham hydroelectric facility repairs were completed and hydroelectric power was restored to Juneau Sunday June 1 at 9:17 p.m.
Because we are still in the middle of a billing period, bills will be issued with a rate of 52.5 cents per kilowatt hour until June 15. Because we are back on line sooner than expected, rates for June 16 through July 15 should be even lower than expected. AEL&P will announce those rates later this week. Rates should return to normal on July 16. If you would like to read the press release, click here.
Governor's Energy Relief Proposal
On May 15, the governor unveiled an energy plan to address the rising cost of energy in . As oil prices climb higher, the state coffers benefit and Alaskans’ pocketbooks suffer. With revenue estimates based on $85 per barrel oil (as compared to current prices over $120 per barrel), the state has a surplus above and beyond originally expected revenues. The governor’s proposed energy plan should be considered by the legislature during the special session that is scheduled to begin June 3 here in Alaska and is subject to change as the legislature evaluates the plan. If the Legislature passes the proposed plan, the benefits would start in September. The proposed energy relief plan includes two parts – returning surplus funds through a grant to all electric utilities to reduce ratepayer bills and an energy debit card to residents for one year. Juneau
1) Electricity Cost Relief
Under the proposal, the State of would grant funds to all electric utilities statewide to reduce the cost of electrical services for one year, starting in September 2008. This is designed to result in a 60 percent reduction in the base rate for all ratepayers that will flow to homeowners, renters, schools, governments and businesses. As a condition of grant participation, electric utilities would be required to agree to pass the entire value of the grant on to rate payers. A review by the Department of Law indicates there should be no federal income tax consequence since the grants act to offset the revenue collected by the utilities. Alaska
The proposal also includes conservation incentives for utilities. For every one percent reduction in 2008 kilowatt hour sales from 2007 sales, the state will make a year-end contribution for capital energy projects to the utility.
2) Energy Debit Card
The proposal provides for the State of to issue energy debit cards to each adult Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) recipient to help reduce the cost of energy to Alaskans. The benefit would be $100 per month per PFD recipient and the amount allocated for children’s benefits would accrue to the card of the sponsor on their PFD application. Money not used one month would carry over to the next month. The energy debit card benefit would be taxable as personal income for federal income tax purposes. Activation of an energy debit card would serve as recognition that the benefit is accepted as personal income, and would trigger a Form 1099 for taxation purposes. Alaska
The energy debit card would be accepted for purchases from energy vendors such as heating oil distributors, natural gas utilities, electric utilities, gas stations and other retail fueling stations. Alaska
More Levelized Billing and Repayment Options Approved for AEL&P Customers
On May 16, AEL&P filed a request with the RCA that will give more customers the option of levelized billing and offer longer repayment periods. Interim approval has been made for this proposal (see AEL&P press release here). AEL&P will be sending individualized letters to each of their customers explaining their options.
The levelization program has been expanded so all residential and small commercial customers would be eligible, not just all-electric customers. Levelized billing is based on past electricity consumption and projected future rates. AEL&P estimates how much a customer will owe throughout the next year and then divides that number by twelve to get the amount the customer will pay each month. After a year, AEL&P will compare the difference between the estimate and the actual cost and either issue a check or a bill to the customer for the difference.
AEL&P's deferred payment plan was also expanded so customers may pay at least one-third of their normal bill each month and stretch the rest out over three to twelve months.
CBJ Provides for Assistance for Low-Income Families, Nonprofits, and Businesses
Folks at the City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) have been working tirelessly for the community. The CBJ made $3 million available for grants to low-income households and loans to small businesses on the edge. The Juneau of United Way Southeast Alaska will provide grants to families through the Juneau Unplugged program at Catholic Community Services. To be eligible for the program, families can make up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and the program will cover between 30 and 70 percent of the increased electricity costs. Families with lower incomes will have more of their bill covered under the program (click here for an application). In addition, the program will be covering 70% of the increase in electricity costs for all licensed or approved child care providers (click here for an application). Non-profit organizations can also apply for assistance through the grant program (click here for an application). The Juneau Economic Development Council will administer low-interest loans for small businesses that can’t pay their bills or get bank loans to cover the cost of electricity.
Governor Declines to Declare a Disaster for Juneau
On May 1, the Disaster Policy Cabinet declined to recommend a disaster declaration (see their recommendations here) and Governor Palin has agreed. The Cabinet’s chairman said the crisis was economic and did not threaten public safety. We disagree and have asked the Governor to reconsider her decision to not declare a disaster. The CBJ Assembly passed a resolution on May 12 asking the Governor to reconsider as well. If a disaster declaration is made, it would not only open the door for state emergency funds, but also Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance.
We have also asked the Governor to share other critical documents relating to the refusal. Our May 20 letter asks the Governor to release the legal advice the Attorney General's office provided to the cabinet and the Govenror.
Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Declared
On May 9, the Governor signed a Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Declaration upon recommendation of the Disaster Policy Cabinet. This declaration will allow small businesses suffering substantial economic injury to apply for low interest loans through the SBA. The delegation strongly encouraged the Governor to make this declaration on May 8 (read our letters Juneau here ). To make this declaration, the state had to show that at least five businesses would be economically impacted by the raised electricity rates. The Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development compiled a Preliminary Economic Impact Assessment to show how our economy will be affected.
The Small Business Administration announced on May 16 that they will be making low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans available to small businesses. The loans will be working capital loans of up to $1.5 million at an interest rate of 4% with terms up to 30 years. For more information, read the SBA’s press release here and information packet here.
Juneau Legislative Delegation Requests Audit of Contracts
The state, through the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) owns the Snettisham facility, towers and transmission lines. AEL&P operates the facilities under an operations and maintenance agreement and a power sales agreement . Under these agreements, AEL&P takes responsibility for maintenance and repairs. We are concerned that the contracts may not have been enforced diligently enough. We’ve asked the independent legislative auditor to look at the requirement for insurance and a repair and replacement fund. You can read the letter here .
On Tuesday, June 3, the Legislative Budget & Audit (LB&A) Committee approved our request to look into AIDEA’s oversight of the operations and maintenance agreement and power sales agreement with AEL&P. The auditor will do a preliminary investigation after which the committee will revisit the issue and determine if a formal audit is required. The auditor will be looking into whether AIDEA has met its obligations to the holders of the Snettisham bonds and whether AIDEA has met its statutory and regulatory obligations in ownership and management of the Snettisham assets.
Independent Review of Cost Of Power Adjustment in the Works
On May 16, AEL&P issued a press release announcing an offer to fund two energy review initiatives. The review would consist of an independent audit of the cost of power adjustment (COPA) and collections to ensure that the utility collected only what was necessary to cover its higher diesel fuel bills as well as a report on “lessons learned.” AEL&P proposes to contribute up to $30,000 from company funds (not passed on to ratepayers) to the City and Borough of Juneau, who would oversee the review. The city would then contract out for a certified public accounting firm to conduct the independent audit and for a consultant who would make recommendations on contingency planning for similar events in the future. The consultant would be advised and directed by a three-member panel to be appointed by the Mayor. For additional information, read the press release and letter to the Mayor here .
Juneau Unplugged Community Campaign
Juneau Unplugged is a community-wide campaign to provide information, encouragement and support during the electricity crisis.
The Juneau Unplugged logo and “Live More. Use Less” slogan give a unifying identity to the efforts of many dedicated individuals and groups in our community. Bringing together our schools, business and community groups, non-profits, media outlets, AEL&P and the City and Borough of Juneau, the campaign includes a broad spectrum of strategies to weather the emergency.
You can visit the Juneau Unplugged website at www.juneauunplugged.com for tips on conservation, safety and alternative energy sources; updates on repair work on the Snettisham transmission line and news on city, state, and federal responses to the emergency; and information on programs to help our families, small businesses, and others survive the crisis. The Juneau Unplugged campaign invites all community groups to use the logo to help brand their efforts to aid and encourage the wider community. Download image files at the website or email Juneau email@example.com for more information.
YOU CAN DO
The main thing we can do on a personal level to mitigate the effects of this disaster is to conserve energy. The more we conserve, the less this will cost us as individuals. Immediately following the announcement, the people of jumped into action and began to conserve and cut electricity consumption by 20 percent. Currently, we are using 30 percent less electricity than we did before the crisis. We have compiled a list of easy ways to conserve energy and add to it frequently as we learn more. You can view our conservation tips Juneau here .
Your safety is our top concern. We are all worried about the potential high cost of energy during this crisis, but please do not put yourself or your family at risk. With the help of the fire marshal and fire chief, we compiled a list of safety tips, which you can view here . While it’s important to conserve as much energy as possible, it is imperative that every Juneauite remains safe at all times.
TO GET HELP
Information from April's Energy Crisis
We have been gathering information on help available to Juneau residents. We have listed some of the assistance available below and will provide more information as we get it. For out complete printable list, click here.
Juneau Unplugged – Temporary Avalanche-Related Electric Bill Payment Assistance
The of United Way Southeast Alaska and Catholic Community Services, through a grant from the City and Borough of Juneau, have established Juneau Unplugged, a program to provide temporary avalanche-related electric bill payment assistance. This program will be available to households within the income eligibility guidelines listed in the table below and will cover a percentage of the increase in electricity costs based on income levels.
70% of Increase Gross Annual Income
50% of Increase Gross Annual Income
30% of Increase Gross Annual Income
Juneau Unplugged has been working with various agencies throughout the community and if you participate in a financial assistance program such as Public Assistance or AHFC housing, you should receive a letter verifying income eligibility. For an application and further explanation of eligibility guidelines, click here .
SAGA Energy Efficient Lifestyle Solutions (EELS)
Southeast Alaska Guidance Association (SAGA) and of Southeast Alaska are joining forces to help United Way residents with the energy crisis and beyond through the Energy Efficient Lifestyle Solutions (EELS) program. Juneau
SAGA will have a full time AmeriCorps member dedicated to mobilizing members of AmeriCorps, Jesuit Volunteers, Vista, alumni of the national service effort, and any other community volunteers who will receive training in ways to conserve energy.
At your request, a team of volunteers will come to your home and look around for ways to cut energy usage. They will be doing things like installing Compact Fluorescent light bulbs and weather stripping, teaching you how to turn down your water heater, and making suggestions on things you can do to further cut costs. Appointments will be prioritized by income level and need.
For an appointment, to volunteer, or questions, contact AnnMarie Ellison at 790-6413 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Click here to see the brochure.
Financing Available Through AEL&P
AEL&P has expanded their levelized billing options and repayment periods and will be sending individualized letters to each of their customers explaining their options.
The levelization program has been expanded so all residential and small commercial customers are eligible, not just all-electric customers. Levelized billing is based on past electricity consumption and projected future rates. AEL&P estimates how much a customer will owe throughout the next year and then divides that number by twelve to get the amount the customer will pay each month. After a year, AEL&P will compare the difference between the estimate and the actual cost and either issue a check or a bill to the customer for the difference.
AEL&P's deferred payment plan has also been expanded so customers may pay at least one-third of their normal bill each month and stretch the rest out over three to twelve months.
Home Energy Rebate & Weatherization Programs
AHFC is currently providing two programs to help with reducing energy bills on existing homes.
The Home Energy Rebate Program is for homeowners who want to make their own energy efficiency improvements on their home. This program has no income requirements. AHFC is currently in the final states of program design for this rebate program and will announce it when it is implemented.
The Weatherization Program provides free weatherization assistance for qualified households. This program will be expanded with additional funds from the state this year by raising income eligibility guidelines to levels reflected in the table below.
For more information on these programs, including where to apply, visit the AHFC website on the subject at . http://www.ahfc.state.ak.us/energy/weatherization_rebates.cfm
Assistance Available for Residents of AHFC Housing
We have been speaking with the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) to make its housing residents will be able to make it through this crisis. AHFC provides housing assistance in three ways and they are working hard to help each group of clients.
Senior housing at – residents will continue to have their utility costs covered by AHFC.
Mountain View Low-income housing at Cedar Park, Geneva Woods and Riverbend – although the lack of a disaster declaration precludes the direct assistance AHFC was hoping to be able to provide to residents and voucher recipients with direct assistance, AHFC will be mailing letters verifying income eligibility for the Juneau Unplugged program.
Housing vouchers – although the lack of a disaster declaration precludes the direct assistance AHFC was hoping to be able to provide to residents and voucher recipients with direct assistance, AHFC will be mailing letters verifying income eligibility for the Juneau Unplugged program.
AHFC is also making sure that nobody in their housing facilities is evicted because of the energy crisis.
Tlingit & Haida Heating Assistance
The Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority (THRHA) also administers a program for energy assistance through LIHEAP. Income eligibility is listed in the table below.
The application period ended May 30, 2008. However, applications for next year will be accepted in the fall.
For more information on the THRHA Energy Assistance Program, call 780-6868.
Heating Assistance Program (HAP)
Heating assistance is available through the Division of Public Assistance. This is available through the federal Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). While this year’s application period has ended, they will begin accepting applications again in the fall. Maximum income for eligibility is the same as the Tlinigit & Haida Heating Assistance program listed in the table above.
For more information on the program, visit the HAP website at http://health.hss.state.ak.us/dpa/programs/hap/ .
More Heating Assistance on the Way
The legislature recently passed House Bill 152, which provided a substantial amount of money for a state-funded heating assistance program. This program will be available in the fall and provide assistance to families who make between 150 percent and 225 percent of the Federal Poverty Level for , listed in the table below. Alaska
The program will also be administered by the Division of Public Assistance. When this program is available, it will also include a retroactive payment back to November 2007.
You Might Be A Snettisham Avalanche Victim If... [ SUBMIT]
...Your 5 year old knows to unplug their night light when they get up in the morning and understands why. ...You finally understand why your grandmother used to iron your grandfather's undershirts. ...You have asked family in the Lower 48 to mail you clothespins or clothesline. ...Your Coleman camp stove has become a fixture in your kitchen. ...Your family has instituted “Shower Night.” ...You have attempted to make cake or cookies on the barbeque. ...You have used compact fluorescents bulbs as bartering stock. ...Your family ate fish and venison for two weeks so you could unplug the freezer. ...You have driven your car onto your lawn and used the headlights to illuminate your house. ...You have held a flashlight so your children can do their math homework. ...You made your children use a newspaper to find current news items instead of turning the computer on. ...Everyone in your family knows whether the main power shut off is and which breaker is which. ...You know how to read your power meter and do it frequently. ...The sight of the meter spinning can make your stomach lurch. ...You have compared the cost of new socks and underwear for two months versus laundry costs. ...You are acutely aware that it has been a cold spring so far! ...You have used a flashlight to go down the hall to the bathroom at work. ...You have researched the OSHA standards on the level of light required in an office. ...You are more frightened of the light than what might be in the dark. ...You charge your cell phone at work - for obvious reasons. ...You turn off your digital alarm clock during the day. ...You know your mother would be proud of your survival skills. ...You say at least once a day, "Thank goodness it didn't happen in January!" ...You’ve tuned your TV from American Idol to Alaskan Idle. ...You know exactly how many watts difference there are between cooking a roast in your crock-pot and your microwave – because your stove is unplugged. ...You found your old textbooks in the basement (by flashlight) to look up “watt”, “amp”, “ohm”, and “watt-hour.” ...You can figure out the payback period on LED bulbs vs. compact fluorescents. ...Blow-dried hair is a bigger show of wealth than diamond earrings.