A New Path for Managing Alaska’s Largest Electrical Grid
The Railbelt utilities have joined together to form a Railbelt Reliability Council (RRC). The RRC provides a forum and structure for the six interconnected Railbelt utilities, along with six non-utility stakeholders, to work together to address Railbelt-wide regional electric system issues in order to ensure grid resilience and reduce long term costs.
The RRC will define and enforce electric reliability standards, coordinate joint planning through an integrated resource planning process and ensure consistent interconnection protocols for utilities, independent power producers and others who would like to use the grid. The RRC will also work with the RCA to develop a cost sharing methodology for assets that have a regional benefit, and will also study if there are effective ways for the Railbelt electric system to reduce fuel costs for ratepayers.
The Right Solution at the Right Time
The RRC meets requirements established in a 2015 letter <view here> from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) to the Alaska State Legislature indicating the need for reform on the Railbelt and requesting voluntary solutions from the utilities. As a culmination of months of discussions amongst the utilities, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by all utilities detailing the framework of the RRC. Non-utility stakeholders, including independent power producers, the RCA, consumer groups and others assisted in the MOU process. The MOU can be viewed <here>.
The RRC will be governed by a mix of utility and non-utility stakeholders. In addition to the six utility seats, the Board will include six non-utility seats:
- the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA)
- two independent power producers (IPP’s) – entities having an existing project on the Railbelt system
- an organization/individual representing consumers (consumer advocacy seat)
- two independent, non-affiliated members
In addition, there will be an RRC CEO appointed by the other 12 members. The RCA and the state agency for Regulatory Affairs and Public Advocacy (RAPA) will each fill an ex-officio, non-voting seat.
The signed MOU lays out a basic structure for the RRC and indicates steps to form the Implementation Committee (IC) that will be responsible for developing the organizational documents and formally establishing the RRC as a viable operating organization. Based on the timeline established in the MOU, it is anticipated the Implementation Committee will be fully seated by May 2020 with the goal of completing their work by December 2020. Other key dates include (represented are ‘no later than’ dates):
- January 2 – Public notice for applications to fill the non-utility seats begins (complete)
- January 17 – Utility, AEA, RCA and RAPA delegates named (complete)
- February 17 – All other non-utility applications due (complete, see list of applicants <here>)
- March 20 – IPP seats selected by Alaska Independent Power Producer Association (complete)
- Now April 20 (est.) – Firm retained to conduct review of applications (in progress – for RFP click <here>)
- May 11 – Consumer advocacy seat selected (complete, see list of current implementation committee members <here>)
- May 15 – Independent, unaffiliated seats selected
- May – Implementation Committee kick off meeting
 See Consumer Advocacy definition in the application for additional detail
 See non-affiliated definition in the application for additional detail
To read the press release about the RRC, click here.
The signatory utilities include Anchorage Municipal Light and Power (ML&P) and Chugach Electric Association (CEA) serving the Anchorage area, Whittier, Tyonek and communities south as far as Moose Pass and Cooper Landing; Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) in Fairbanks serving the Interior; Homer Electric Association (HEA) serving the majority of the Kenai Peninsula; Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) serving the Mat-Su Valley and Eagle River; and Seward Electric, a municipally-owned utility serving the Seward area.