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Powering Kotzebue: The Numerous Components to Keeping the Lights On and Homes Heated in Rural Alaska

Powering Kotzebue: The Numerous Components to Keeping the Lights On and Homes Heated in Rural Alaska

In 2008, amidst a surge in energy prices across the nation, Kotzebue and regional leaders convened a pivotal energy summit to address the escalating costs of heating their homes. With oil prices soaring overnight from $5 to $8 a gallon, and electricity costs following suit, concerns mounted globally over oil scarcity, exacerbated by Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) restrictions.   

Sixteen years later, under the stewardship of the NWAB’s Renewable Energy Manager Ingemar Mathiasson, this group has expanded and still twice a year, now as the Energy Steering Committee. Its goal: Power their communities in the most affordable and innovative ways imaginable.  

The committee’s efforts focused on developing a comprehensive energy plan, involving stakeholders from regional communities, including administrators, mayors, residents, elders, scientists and government agencies, like the Arctic Energy Office.   

Initial discussions highlighted the potential of wind power, with KEA pioneering wind energy since 1997. Subsequent meetings delved into exploring diverse energy sources and strategies to mitigate rising fuel costs and promote sustainability and self-sufficiency.  

Over the years, the committee evolved into a collaborative platform, encompassing representatives from key entities like Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation (KIC) and KEA. While renewable energy emerged as a priority, the committee remained inclusive, considering both renewable and non-renewable energy options to address the region’s energy needs. The committee’s initiatives culminated in the development and periodic updates of the energy plan, reflecting advancements in energy technologies and evolving community needs.  

Despite challenges such as limited resources and fluctuating oil prices, the committee remains steadfast in its goals. The success of the committee’s endeavors is evident in the ongoing implementation of renewable energy projects across the region. By leveraging solar, wind, battery technology, electric heat pumps and even dabbling in discussions over long duration energy storage and hydrogen, the NWAB’s communities are aiming to reduce their dependence on expensive fossil fuels and achieve greater energy independence.  

With each new technology introduced to the region comes the understanding and respect for fossil fuels, a constant discussion point in a bulk of Alaska energy conversations. 

“We’re not anti-oil and gas, we’re anti-poverty,” said Sonny Adams, longtime steering committee member and director of energy at NANA Regional Corporation.  

The ultimate objective is not only to lower energy costs but also to foster sustainability and resilience in the face of future challenges. As the NWAB continues its journey towards a more sustainable energy future, the Energy Steering Committee remains at the forefront, guiding efforts to harness the region’s abundant energy resources and chart a path towards a cleaner, more affordable energy landscape for all residents.  

Official news published at https://www.energy.gov/arctic/articles/powering-kotzebue-numerous-components-keeping-lights-and-homes-heated-rural-alaska

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