News from Patrick Flynn



Power play

As I wrote previously, the Assembly is considering a proposal for Municipal Light & Power and Chugach Electric Association to jointly construct a new gas-fired power plant near International Airport Road and Minnesota Boulevard. That ordinance was before us last night (Tuesday, August 12) and action was delayed a week when questions from local developer Marc Marlow surfaced in the days leading up to the meeting. More specifically, he sent his list to all Assembly members on Monday, August 11, and apparently spoke with some of my colleagues on Saturday and Sunday.

While I would have preferred to see Mr. Marlow’s questions prior to or during our July 31 committee hearing, or at least in conjunction with our August 8 work session, the magnitude of this transaction requires us to act in a deliberate manner. Given that, I supported the delay and we’ll have another work session on Friday, August 15, to focus on the questions presented.

And what, you might ask, is the intent of Mr. Marlow’s inquiries?¬†What he told me is that he wants the Assembly to vote the proposal down. There are any number of reasons why but they appear to boil down to one underlying issue – Mr. Marlow has long sought to re-start the Knik Arm Power Plant, located on Whitney Road, but his company, Tiqun Energy, has been unable to convince either ML&P or CEA to buy the power the plant would produce.

You’ll recall my mentioning the complicated politics of Railbelt energy. This little tiff is a prime example with Mr. Marlow accusing both utilities of imperiousness, inefficiency and turf protection (ouch!). Several times I’ve heard him expound on the virtues of his plan, which would also employ natural gas-fired turbines but use the waste heat to provide hot water heating for surrounding businesses and homes, and yet the project remains high-centered because he hasn’t been able to find a buyer for electricity.

(Full disclosure: one of the primary customers Mr. Marlow has identified for the hot water heat is the company where I have a day job, the Alaska Railroad Corporation, and the Knik Arm Power Plant rests on land Marlow leases from the railroad. While those matters are handled in a different department, that business relationship was the central reason I returned Mr. Marlow’s contribution during my campaign.)

I can understand Mr. Marlow’s frustration but I’m not sure spiking the ML&P/CEA plan will help his case. If they’re not inclined to work with him now they’d likely be less so if they perceive him as the reason their long-negotiated project foundered. And, besides that, the Assembly has no jurisdiction over CEA.

Where I do see an opportunity to address Tiqun’s concerns is the upcoming Municipal Power Authority ordinance, which would set up a board of directors to provide management guidance to ML&P. I’ve been contemplating an amendment that would direct the board to duly consider purchasing power from third-party producers. Marlow’s complaint wasn’t the genesis of the idea, rather my interest in a mechanism for a potential Fire Island wind farm or Cook Inlet tidal power generation to sell into the grid. My thinking was aimed at renewable power resources, but there’s no reason more traditional forms couldn’t be part of the mix.

Approval of the new ML&P/CEA plant doesn’t preclude introduction of other power sources, renewable or otherwise, in Southcentral Alaska. It would represent about 40% of the generation capacity the two utilities wish to bring on line in the next seven years, meaning there remains plenty of need for Tiqun and others to fill.

With that, as always, your thoughts are welcome!

Regards,

Patrick

This contribution was made on Wednesday, 13. August 2008 at 16:30 and was published under the category Energy. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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1 Comment

  1. i’m not familiar with what marlow is trying to do. i don’t like the guy either, but that hardly seems like a good reason to not deal with him, if he has a viable concept.
    definitely don’t want to see ML&P and chugach merge. i hope that doesn’t happen. i don’t like the massive power poles on east northern lights. i don’t like transformers downtown that have ten times the capacity of the existing ones and stand surrounded by blast walls. and i don’t like new fossil fuel burning generation plants anywhere near here. we need to be aggressively pursuing solar in addition to wind, tidal and geothermal sources. saying there’s ‘no reason more traditional sources can’t be pursued concurrently’ sounds only like justification for more of the same. and based on the experience nearly all of alaska except anchorage has been having lately, we’d be better served to get off fossil fuels just as soon as we can. why not something stronger than the board ‘duly considering’ purchasing power from third parties? could you not require ML&P and chugach to allow solar energy to stream back into the grid and let the meters run backwards at the homes of individuals? why aren’t we doing that already?

    Comment: clark – 14. August 2008 @ 12:26 am

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