Lisa Muskowski has introduced legislation to create microgrids in islanded communities. S. 1227 would help these communities diversify their fuel sources by including them in the microgrid system of the Department of Energy (DOE).
The bill would require the Secretary of Energy to develop a of hybrid microgrid system technology for isolated communities; seek to leverage local capacity and knowledge in developing a system; and authorize establishment of future targets for the economic displacement of conventional generation used in hybrid micro-grid systems.
Sen. Murkowski spoke on the issue last week at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. As a senator from Alaska, she has seen first hand the effects of islanded communities.
She said, "Energy can be a staggering cost and a staggering burden" for people living in islanded communities, adding that sources like hydropower, wind, and other renewable sources should be looked at.
"While the nation's regional grids have a diverse set of energy sources to draw from, most isolated areas simply don't have that luxury. Instead, their energy prices are directly tied to the price of oil," Murkowski added. "Alaska's isolated communities are largely dependent on imported diesel fuel for their energy needs. The cost of importing that fuel adds significantly to the overall cost of electricity, and in the case of Alaska, it also adds to the cost of space heat."
Meera Kohler, president and CEO of the Alaska Village Electric Cooperation (AVEC), testified before the committee, and explained that, in Alaska, there is an extra risk because temperatures in areas of the state can reach 60 below during winter months.
"In some of our smallest rural communities, over 20 percent of the population spends literally 50 percent or more of their disposable income on energy and that's just electricity and heat," Kohler said. "That is not supportable. You cannot have any kind of economic development when you have energy prices that are crippling the economy."
Source: Smart Grid News
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