In January 2021, Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) issued a Request for Information (RFI) for 15 to 30 megawatts of renewable energy. The intent of the RFI was to solicit proposals for renewable energy projects that would advance GVEA’s Carbon Reduction Goal without adverse long-term effects on either rates or reliability.
In response to the RFI, GVEA received eight innovative proposals that included hydro, wind and solar, either separately or in combination, and a few of which were paired with battery storage options. GVEA sincerely appreciates the proposals that were submitted and the commitment and enthusiasm of these entrepreneurs to assist GVEA in its efforts to integrate additional renewables into our electric system.
The RFI process provided GVEA the opportunity to compare and determine how potential renewable options might complement GVEA’s electric system. The analysis however determined that small-scale renewable projects are not economic on GVEA’s system and do not substantially reduce GVEA’s emissions. The best way to maximize the benefits of renewables, and thereby substantially reduce carbon emissions, is for GVEA to work in concert with the other Railbelt Utilities and independent power producers to facilitate the development and integration of large scale renewable projects along the Railbelt corridor, coupled with expanded battery storage capacity.
The decisions of how much renewable energy to integrate into GVEA’s electric system, what combination of renewable energy, when, and at what price are complicated. There are also a number of interconnected decisions at play, all of which need to be carefully evaluated and considered so that GVEA can be assured that whatever decisions are ultimately made are in the collective best interest of GVEA’s members.
Those interconnected decisions include the pending decision related to Healy Unit 1 (whether to install Selective Catalytic Reduction and upgrade the plant by December 31, 2024); the debt obligation associated with GVEA’s various generation units which will need to be repaid regardless of whether these units are operated or not; rapidly evolving and cheaper renewable and battery technology; a dynamic political environment both at the state and national levels; and an evolving regulatory structure that includes implementation of an Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) to oversee Railbelt-wide integrated resource planning and generation project preapproval.
After a thorough review and analysis of all projects, GVEA decided to not move forward with a Request for Proposal for a renewable energy project at this time given the pending interconnected decisions at hand and the impact that these decisions will ultimately have on GVEA’s future generation needs. GVEA will continue seeking alternatives that substantially advance GVEA’s Carbon Reduction Goal while providing cost benefit to GVEA’s members. Even though GVEA is not advancing projects at this time, GVEA remains committed to finding ways to expand the inclusion of renewables into our generation mix and will continue to pursue efforts to do so.
GVEA’s mission statement is very straight forward, to provide safe, reliable electricity to members at fair and reasonable prices – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. GVEA also has a responsibility to be a good steward of the environment; a responsibility GVEA is committed to honoring.
GVEA has a long history as a leader in renewables. In 2003, GVEA commissioned what at the time was the largest battery storage system in the world. In 2012, GVEA installed the largest wind project in Alaska, and in 2018 GVEA installed the first large scale solar farm in Alaska. GVEA has met every renewable goal that GVEA’s board has set and is committed to meeting its Carbon Reduction Goal. As we pursue this goal, GVEA is focused on:
- Working with independent power producers, the Alaska Energy Authority and other Railbelt utilities on potential large-scale renewable projects within the Railbelt that capture economies of scale and achieve significant carbon emission reduction
- Evaluating new renewable energy projects in conjunction with GVEA’s generation planning, from an emissions and cost perspective
- Actively participating in the ERO process for the benefit of ratepayers throughout the Railbelt
Carbon reduction is our collective responsibility and action is required. The continued economic viability of Interior communities and GVEA’s ability to meet its mission, requires that whatever action is taken must be thoughtful, deliberative, balanced and ultimately focused on the best interest of all GVEA members.
“To our members and to the Interior communities that we serve, please know that GVEA is and will remain focused on achieving meaningful carbon emission reductions,” said John Burns, GVEA President/CEO. “We ask for your patience as GVEA’s board and staff grapple with the complicated decisions surrounding how best to achieve that goal.”