Wrangell and Petersburg are back on hydropower. And the communities are soon expecting reimbursement from the Southeast Alaska Power Agency, or SEAPA, for running backup diesel generators during an ongoing drought. They’ve also been expecting repayment of hydroelectricity sold to Ketchikan last year. That community continues to run its diesel generators. At a SEAPA board meeting Thursday, Ketchikan representatives asked for some relief from the northern communities.
SEAPA is the whole-sale hydropower provider for the three communities. It operates Tyee Lake which mostly supplies Petersburg and Wrangell, and Swan Lake which does the same for Ketchikan.
SEAPA gave the go-ahead to end the northern communities’ diesel runs last Sunday.
Now, SEAPA is expected to foot the bill for Wrangell and Petersburg’s diesel runs. That includes fuel and operator overtime costs since February 15th. This is minus the 6.8 cents per kWh hydro power rate the towns would normally incur.
Board members suggested that SEAPA foot this bill because it had oversold the Tyee supply to Ketchikan last summer. Under SEAPA’s power sales agreement with the communities, the power from Tyee is first dedicated to the northern towns.
“In my opinion, this was not a favor to the northern communities to pay for this diesel run,” said SEAPA Board Member Steve Prysunka, also the mayor of Wrangell, at a board meeting in late March.
“This was not some kind of charitable act, this was owed to us,” he said.
The agency did not disclose how much that tab would be for the diesel costs. SEAPA will gather numbers from Petersburg and Wrangell and present those at a future board meeting.
Meanwhile, Ketchikan is seriously struggling to meet its energy needs. And the city is still not drawing from Swan Lake as the agency waits for it to refill a little further. Ketchikan is running half on diesel and half on other hydro projects.
KPU Electric Division Manager Andy Donato does expect Ketchikan to draw from Swan Lake Monday morning.
“I’m glad for Petersburg and Wrangell. They’re off diesels for the moment. Ketchikan is not, we’re still running our diesels,” said SEAPA Board Member Karl Amylon, who is also Ketchikan’s City manager.
He says running the generators this much for this long has caused the city to butt up against air quality standards. The city has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to see if the city can get any leeway.
And Amylon asked the same of SEAPA. Ketchikan was asked to pay back the northern communities six gigawatt hours from Swan Lake because of last year’s sales from Tyee. It still owes half of that.
“If SEAPA is going to pay for the cost of your diesel run, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Ketchikan to send that additional three gigs north at this time when we’re under the circumstances we are,” Amylon said.
Board and Petersburg Borough Assembly Member Bob Lynn said that his community does not need the Swan Lake power that badly.
“The way we see it here in Petersburg is that commitment is met and we ought to come to the end of that,” Lynn said.
The board did not take any formal action to Amylon’s request, but it will clearly be a topic at further meetings.