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Alaska's Capitol City Cuts the Power
May 15, 2008 12:08 PM   Subscribe

While Alaskan senators get mopey about polar bears and climate change, the capitol city is busy cutting their power use... even if it is a bit against their will. The Snettisham Hydro plant suffered a massive avalanche this Spring, taking out the main source of power for Juneau. Some more info
posted by Foam Pants (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I think your series of tubes might be clogged. That's why you didn't see this one down the page.
posted by chillmost at 12:20 PM on May 15, 2008

Sorry, that was obviously the series of tubes in my brain.

posted by chillmost at 12:20 PM on May 15, 2008

I hope that once the power is back, they can stick with the changes that have been made to reduce energy use. My guess is though, that the lights will all go back on when electricity is cheap again.
posted by pithy comment at 12:51 PM on May 15, 2008

It is probably worth noting that the hydro plant itself is fine and that the avalanches only took out part of the transmission line. It is expected to be fixed in a couple months.
posted by ssg at 1:10 PM on May 15, 2008

The elevator cost $0.20 per round trip? Really? Is that a reflection of increased energy costs due to shortages in Alaska, or is it just a reflection of increased energy costs as a whole?
posted by fusinski at 1:37 PM on May 15, 2008

The elevator cost $0.20 per round trip?

That would be at $0.53/kWh, so it would be probably somewhere around $0.04 for that particular elevator in most of the US.
posted by ssg at 1:44 PM on May 15, 2008

Sweet, so once they get the line back up, they can quit burning diesel for electricity for good, right? That's awesome! (According to this, in 2007, generators were supplying 20% of the town's electricity.)
posted by salvia at 1:48 PM on May 15, 2008

Juneau having to switch to EXPENSIVE diesel-powered generators for their electricity will give them a taste of what rural villages have been experiencing for quite some time. FYI: Almost all of the power in rural Alaska is generated by diesel.

Maybe those in the Capitol "green zone" will develop some sympathy for the enormous burden their constituents on the outskirts of civilization face each and every day.

refs from
"Of course your pain is not of a magnitude that measures up to ours. You are being forced to generate electricity with diesel fuel temporarily until your infrastructure is repaired. Rural residents live in a world where we generate power every day using diesel, and in some cases, that diesel has to be flown into the village by cargo planes. Even when brought in by barge, the fact that many rural destinations are at the far end of the supply chain makes our fuel -- and ultimately our electricity -- very expensive.

I am not happy for Juneau's misfortunes, but I hope this experience will give your community and the legislators it hosts a little better perspective on the challenges facing rural Alaska every day of the year.

-- Tom Bolen

"Juneau utility costs to soar - AP"
posted by vporter at 1:49 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Before the seven towers were taken out, Juneau was partially using diesel. There is a second hydro plant in the works, though, and the city will probably off of the diesel at that point. While it is true that Juneau is feeling how much it costs to power things in the bush, Juneau's residents have designed their home around cheaper electric. Many homes here have electric heating systems, I would assume a rarity in bush communities.

The measures I have taken are pretty typical - no lights on in the evening, no oven use, restricted computer time, reduced water use (water $ goes up with cost of power). My neighbors are more drastic, however. They have unplugged their fridge and are keeping their food outside in locking coolers. The bears may be a problem, although they have avoided placing it in a picky-nic basket.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:37 PM on May 15, 2008

Maybe those in the Capitol "green zone" will develop some sympathy for the enormous burden their constituents on the outskirts of civilization face each and every day.

Hmmm . . . I've never talked to anyone in Southeast Alaska who was unsympathetic towards problems in the Bush, either before or after the avalanche. But I've seen plenty of comments online from people irrationally attacking a strawman. For those of you unfamiliar with Alaskan politics, there is a HURF DURF LIBRUL JUNEAU attitude which you run across occasionally.

In the extreme version, Juneau is not small town with a long and varied history, Native and non-Native; instead, Juneau becomes a liberal conspiracy of college-educated (oh, the horror!), yuppie Californians (or New Yorkers, or Seattlites, etc.) who have no purpose in life other than to sneer at "real Alaskans" (who often turn out to be from the Lower 48) while sipping soy lattes.

Nevermind that the legislature is composed of elected representatives from all over the state so Alaskans as a whole are responsible for their government. No, it's much easier to scapegoat the Juneau strawman. This also distracts from the fact that the Anchorage area dominates Alaskan politics due to population and the oil industry presence there.

Back to energy problems, while towns which have always used diesel for their primary power are in serious trouble, they have at least known from year-to-year that prices were going up. In Juneau this is a huge change literally overnight. The entire infrastructure is based on different energy economics. The town will get through it, but that doesn't change the severity of the impact.
posted by D.C. at 8:22 PM on May 15, 2008

Don't blame the internet for the reactions. I say much worse things about Juneau in human form.

I think the attacks stem from the fact that the Capitol is so warm and comfy and privileged. From my pov, the cold and isolation somehow keeps folks humble.

Severity? Conditions in Juneau will never come close to that word. There are too many dollars and 'important' bureaucrats floating around the city for things to get severe.
posted by vporter at 4:42 PM on May 16, 2008

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