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Power Pledge Challenge kicks off October Energy Awareness Month

More than 3,500 sixth through eighth grade students in Alaska will learn about energy efficiency and compete for prizes as part of the Power Pledge Challenge. Utilities and organizations host the statewide challenge as part of Energy Awareness Month recognized every year in October. In the Challenge, students complete a hands-on activity from the AK EnergySmart curriculum, learn how to calculate energy usage, and ways to reduce usage at home. Students then conduct an online home energy audit with their families and identify specific actions they will take to use energy more efficiently.

Over the past six years, this challenge has grown from 700 students in Anchorage, to more than 3,500 throughout the state competing for regional and statewide prizes. The statewide prize includes $2,200 worth of energy-related classroom supplies. Last year’s statewide prize winning teacher, Susan Tifental from Hanshew Middle School in Anchorage, said “The energy awareness lesson brought to the schools by the Power Pledge Challenge partners is an excellent introduction to the seventh grade energy unit. Students are interested and engaged in the activities due to their relevant, local content. They especially liked learning about the energy consumption of the light bulbs in the Arctic Star.”

The Power Pledge Challenge is supported by Alaska Electric Light & Power, Alaska Energy Authority, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, Chugach Electric Association, City of Seward, Golden Valley Electric Association, Homer Electric Association, Kwigillingok Power Company, Matanuska Electric Association, Anchorage Municipal Light & Power, Nome Joint Utility Services, and Renewable Energy Alaska Project.

Chugach Electric alerts members of bill increases due to wildfire

Chugach Electric Association, Inc., is alerting members to expect bill increases in the coming months following the Swan Lake Fire which damaged the transmission line that connects the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project to the Chugach system.

The transmission line has been out of service for several weeks at the request of fire crews fighting the fire, which has now burned over 167,000 acres on the Kenai Peninsula.

Because of the loss of access to Bradley Lake power, more natural gas is being used and will continue to be until the line is repaired and back in service. Increases may not show up immediately, but Chugach is estimating members will see bills rise between 3 and 6 percent over time until the line is back in service. Natural gas is a more expensive power source than hydroelectric power, and Bradley Lake generally makes up about 10 percent of Chugach’s power supply requirements.

“We want our members to have notice that they will see bills increase as a result of this fire due to damage to the transmission line that connects Chugach to the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project,” said Chugach CEO Lee Thibert. “This is a case of a natural disaster impacting the power grid, and we will continue to work with fire managers and our neighboring utilities to find out when it’s safe to go in and assess the damage and make a plan for repairs.”

According to Alaska Wildland Fire Information, the Swan Lake Fire is 68 percent contained. There are still hot spots along the transmission line that have kept ground crews from getting in to do a full damage assessment. A recent aerial survey showed fire damaged more than 60 poles and associated structures.

Bradley Lake is the largest hydroelectric project in Alaska, producing up to 10 percent of the energy needs in the Railbelt. The power lines damaged by the Swan Lake Fire connect the Bradley Lake project with Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and Fairbanks. Bradley Lake provides power to Chugach, the City of Seward, Homer Electric Association, Municipal Light & Power, Matanuska Electric Association, and Golden Valley Electric Association. Because Homer Electric’s service territory is south of the damaged line section, Homer is still receiving power from Bradley Lake.

There have been two recent news stories about this issue:

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2019/09/19/the-kenai-peninsula-wildfire-knocked-alaskas-largest-hydro-plant-offline-it-could-cost-you/

https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/09/03/heres-how-a-kenai-peninsula-wildfire-could-cause-higher-electric-bills-in-anchorage-and-fairbanks/

Chugach taking steps to mitigate potential wildfire hazards

With the current dry weather conditions and high fire danger, Chugach Electric Association, Inc., is taking steps to mitigate wildfire risks in its service territory, some of which could lengthen power outage times. 

Chugach is taking temporary measures to power line operations in the Anchorage Bowl, Tyonek, and Northern Kenai Peninsula. Crews will also be stepping up tree clearing on the Anchorage Hillside as long as the fire danger remains high.

The changes to power line operations include the response to re-energizing a power line. Under normal conditions, Chugach’s lines are re-energized automatically following a short-circuit. Often, if the short-circuit is temporary in nature, this action will remove the short-circuit and restore power almost immediately.  However, during the current dry weather conditions, Chugach will let the circuit stand open until Chugach’s line personnel can physically patrol an outage area before a line is placed back into service.  This temporary change in how we respond could lead to longer outage times.

“With fires burning to the north and south of us, we believe taking proactive steps to mitigate any fire danger is the right thing to do,” said Chugach CEO Lee Thibert. “Having our crews physically patrol an area before a line is re-energized is prudent action to take in these conditions. We appreciate the patience and understanding of our members during this time.”

Additionally, Chugach is working with its tree clearing contractor to increase efforts on the Anchorage Hillside to clear dead and dangerous trees from the right-of-way. Crews will be looking for potential problem areas and clearing trees under or near power lines. If trees are outside of the right-of-way and considered a potential hazard, crews will work with property owners to secure permission before clearing a tree.

Chugach will return power line operations to normal as soon as weather and conditions permit.  If you see trees close to, or in contact with, Chugach powerlines, please report them to the danger tree hotline (907) 762-7227.

Members notified of Capital Credit Allocation

Chugach members who received electric service in 2018 received their capital credit allocation message on their July billing statement. The total allocation for retail members in 2018 was just over $5.3 million.

Each year, Chugach allocates margins—revenues remaining after expenses are paid—to members receiving service during the year. These margins are allocated based on the amount of electric service a member purchases each year, compared to the total service purchased by all members. {191287349}

Capital credits are used by Chugach to provide safe, reliable electric service by investing in substations, poles, lines, and other critical infrastructure. As a not-for-profit cooperative, the capital credits are used as operating funds until they are returned to members via a retirement process. The process of retiring capital credits is determined and approved by the Chugach Board of Directors. The allocations for 2018 will be paid out as a check or a bill credit in approximately 25 years.