GVEA makes “legacy decision” in approving the Strategic Generation Plan

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 7:25 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - After holding a special meeting on Monday, June 27, the Board of Directors for Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) passed a vote on what they call the Strategic Generation Plan.

Facing deadlines on a consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), GVEA was tasked with lowering nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions. In order to meet the standards of the decree, GVEA came up with the strategic generation plan. The plan that the board passed is made up of five planks, which include the retirement of Healy plant two, the addition of a selective catalytic reduction system to Healy plant one, and the construction of multiple renewable resource plants such as wind farms, solar farms, and battery energy storage systems. To keep up with energy demands, GVEA will also have to purchase additional natural gas from southern Alaska.

The selective catalytic reduction system or SCR is designed to reduce the emissions produced by Healy plant one which will then put the plant into acceptable EPA standards for a limited time. This modification to the plant will provide GVEA the time needed to construct the renewable resource facilities and secure enough data to see what other changes or additions need to be made in order to securely shut down Healy one. The price of putting the SCR will however cost an estimated $25 million or more.

The findings of the research and simulations revealed that the best plans included creating renewable resource plants and eliminating at least one of Healy’s coal plants from the overall equation. The two plants that were in question were Healy plants one and two. Those at the meeting referred to Healy plant two as unreliable while Healy one was regarded as affordable and reliable despite being one of the oldest coal plants at 55 years old. Board member Thomas Delong referred to the plant as “ancient” by modern technology standards.

Public comments included 95 written comments while 18 members spoke during the meeting. Many people and organizations wanted GVEA to switch to cleaner renewable resources for power, including Pogo mine and Fort Knox gold mine, two of the biggest consumers of GVEA energy. The two mines claimed they needed clean and affordable energy or else they would face difficulty finding investment and would have to consider getting their energy from somewhere else.

There were many who spoke in favor of keeping the Healy plants open, citing concerns over protecting the economy in Healy. Addressing those concerns, the board has stated they will work to ensure that current GVEA employees working at the Healy plants will be trained and able to find employment within GVEA or else where once the plants are retired.

The plan passed in a six to one vote. Thomas Delong was the only member against passing all five planks. Delong did however say that he will “support the decision.”

Some options not included in the proposed plan are the construction of a gas line, a hydro plant, or the use of nuclear power. You can view the full meeting and plan layout at GVEA’s website.

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