Renewable Energy Deployment in Extreme Environments: Analysis and Plan for Alaska’s Transformation from a Petro to Clean Energy State

First name: 
Alexandra Hope
Last name: 
Class Year: 
Michael Oristaglio
Essay Abstract: 
This paper analyzes the unique political and environmental barriers preventing Alaska from achieving a clean energy transition in its electric sector. With an economy heavily reliant on the extraction and export of natural resources – and in particular crude oil – and a political regime that favors business and the oil revenues, Alaska faces extreme conditions on multiple fronts. Balancing both a rural, Indigenous villages and urban, centralized series of towns, Alaska boasts two highly diverse environments for which to address electric energy generation and distribution. By recommending a Greenbank for rural regions, a Railbelt Reliability Council for urban communities, and Renewable Portfolio Standards for future development, this paper employs economic, political and historical data to draw a logical and meaningful plan. Much of the research investigating the underlying extreme conditions and the potential solutions can be applied to regions that share the independent, islanded nature of Alaska, such as Hawaii and the Native regions of the Northwest Territories. The proposed ideas in this paper seek to carefully address the complex social, economic and political challenges of Alaska, while providing a hope for electric self-sufficiency to the Native Peoples of the Interior, and electric price equality to the city folks in Alaska’s urbanized southeast.