Powering Kotzebue: The Numerous Components to Keeping the Lights On and Homes Heated in Rural Alaska

Powering Kotzebue: The Numerous Components to Keeping the Lights On and Homes Heated in Rural Alaska

Pronunciations, as words appear:  

  • Kotzebue: COTS-uh-byew (rhymes with view)  
  • Qikiqtaġruk: Kick-ick-tug-rook  
  • Chucki Sea: CHUCK-chee  
  • Iñupiat: ee-new-pea-ack (like yack, without the y)  

Nestled on a remote gravel spit in northwest Alaska lies Kotzebue, also known as Qikiqtaġruk, a village positioned just 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Accessible only by air, sea or traditional dog mushing routes, Kotzebue stands as a vital lifeline for its 3,200 residents, over 75% of whom proudly identify as Iñupiat. Serving as a central hub for a network of 12 other villages in northwest Alaska, Kotzebue plays a crucial role in providing essential goods, services and organizational support, particularly in the realm of energy infrastructure. 

At the core of Kotzebue’s energy landscape is the Northwest Arctic Borough’s (NWAB) Energy Steering Committee, a response to the tumultuous energy prices in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Faced with exorbitant oil prices and skyrocketing electricity costs, local leaders banded together to navigate challenges. Sixteen years on, the committee remains steadfast in guiding the region towards a sustainable energy future. Through initiatives aimed at harnessing renewable resources and mitigating fuel expenses, the committee showcases a dedication to inclusivity and innovation. This commitment has yielded a comprehensive energy plan, tailored to meet evolving community needs and incorporating cutting edge technological advancements. 

One of the key players in Kotzebue’s energy journey is the Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA), a nonprofit cooperative founded in 1949. Owned by over 875 members, KEA plays a crucial role in providing electricity to the area, alongside managing other essential services. 

Despite the challenges posed by Kotzebue’s remote location and harsh climate, KEA has made significant strides in reducing energy costs and promoting sustainability for residents. Through initiatives like wind and solar energy integration, it aims to stabilize and reduce energy costs in the community, ensuring sustainable and affordable electricity.  

The journey towards a more sustainable energy future in Kotzebue is further bolstered by programs like Power Cost Equalization (PCE). A state program designed to address the economic disparity in electricity costs between rural and urban areas, PCE provides vital support to rural communities like Kotzebue by subsidizing electricity costs. It helps bridge the gap between the actual cost of electricity generation and what rural residents pay for their bills, ensuring access to essential services without facing exorbitant utility costs. PCE does not incentivize utility ownership of renewable energy. In fact, the more renewables KEA brings online, the lower their short-term electricity rates are, and the less PCE funding comes into the community.  

Today, Kotzebue stands resilient and innovative. Through collaborative efforts between community leaders, organizations like KEA, and supportive programs like PCE, the small town continues to chart its path towards a more affordable and sustainable energy landscape for all its residents.  

Originally published at https://www.energy.gov/arctic/articles/powering-kotzebue-numerous-components-keeping-lights-and-homes-heated-rural-alaska

The post Powering Kotzebue: The Numerous Components to Keeping the Lights On and Homes Heated in Rural Alaska first appeared on Social Gov.

This story originally appeared at Tech - Social Gov