In February 2018, Juneau’s eight Assembly members and Mayor voted unanimously to pass a resolution in support of adoption of the Juneau Renewable Energy Strategy (JRES). This ambitious energy strategy brings Juneau up to speed with hundreds of other US cities by establishing a renewable energy target. Specifically, the JRES calls for 80% of Juneau’s energy needs to be met by renewables by 2045.
Juneau has benefited from clean renewable energy – hydroelectricity – for roughly 100 years.
Hydropower gives Juneau one of the lowest, most stable electric rates in the state and supplies 20% of the total energy used in the community.
Low costs for hydroelectricity help offset Juneau’s dependence on the fuel oil, diesel and gasoline that supply the other 80% of the energy used in the community. This fossil fuel use is largely responsibe for more than $140 million leaving the local economy annually to import these fuels.
Juneau has an opportunity to increase its energy independence, lower energy costs, reduce its exposure to risk and support economic development, all by expanding the use and supply of renewable energy.
The JRES has set a target of obtaining 80% of our energy from renewable sources by the year 2045. Strategies for achieving this target include increasing the energy efficiency of our living and working spaces, shifting transportation and space heating needs to renewable energy, and increasing supplies of renewable energy.
Strengthening the renewable energy sector can contribute to each of the plan’s overarching goals: building a more resilient and diversified economy, providing infrastructure that supports and strengthens the economy, leveraging natural competitive advantages to create new wealth, and enhancing qualify of life attributes.
Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy will have a wide range of benefits for Juneau. Our long distances from fuel suppliers, and our small, captive market with little competition means Juneau residents pay higher prices for these imported fuels than the rest of the country. Our dependence on barges, ferries, and jet travel for most of our access and supplies means our living expenses and business costs are greatly affected by high fuel costs, and by spikes in fuel prices. Major industries and employers such as tourism and fishing can be directly impacted by fuel costs.
Juneau is therefore particularly vulnerable to spikes in fossil fuel prices resulting from national and international political and economic responses to world events and climate change. As the costs of climate change grow in coming decades, an obvious policy response may be to tax carbon emissions to discourage their use and pay for mitigation measures. Such measures, beyond CBJ or Juneau’s control, would have a disproportionate impact on Juneau’s economy.
This strategic plan provides background information on Juneau’s energy use and supplies, discusses alternative energy paths, and recommends targets and strategies. It sets direction and a general path forward. It is not intended to be a detailed guideline or tactical action plan, but is instead a general roadmap for more detailed planning and budgeting.
While Juneau can’t influence the costs of imported fossil fuels, it can take a wide range of actions to influence energy consumption, supplies, and costs within the community. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels, through energy efficiency and substitution of renewable energy sources, can help create new jobs and businesses, reduce costs, and increase community resilience, while reducing climate impacts.
The CBJ, together with other organizations and households, have made many successful investments in efficiency and renewable energy. Our airport has achieved substantial cost savings by replacing runway lighting with LED’s and by installing a ground-source heat pump system for heating buildings and melting ice. The NOAA Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute helped pioneer seawater heat pump systems in the U.S. A rapidly growing number of Juneau businesses and households are slashing thier heating bills by converting to heat pumps. Local heat pump installation and service companies have expanded significantly in the past 5 years.
Similarly, Juneau has become a leader in adoption of electric vehicles (EV), ranking in the top communities in the nation in terms of per capita EV ownership. In 2016-2017 two EV’s are arrived per week in the community, with rapid Juneau acceptance of electrical vehicle transportation. A growing number of EV charging stations have been installed through cooperative efforts between the CBJ and other agencies and businesses. Several private and public/private charging stations are also being planned. CBJ has purchsed one electric bus (scheduled to be in service in 2019) and has recently won a grant to possibly purchase two additional electric buses.
Building on this experience to increase local energy security and resilience will help keep more of the $140 million that we now spend on fossil fuels circulating in the community to reduce energy costs for residents and businesses, grow local businesses and jobs, and reduce vulnerability to volatile fuel prices.
This strategy can enhance economic development in other ways, by supporting innovators through business and technology research, incubation, and demonstration; by targeting key events and organizations that represent clean tech and renewable energy; and by attracting “green capital” and enabling more innovative financing for clean and renewable businesses. These are all goals identified in the Juneau Economic Development Plan.
Juneau has a head start in transitioning toward renewable energy. We have a great opportunity to use local resources to create a stronger, more resilient economy, while helping reduce carbon emissions, and reducing energy costs for local government, schools, businesses and households.