Colleen Fisk works for the Renewable Energy Alaska Project. She travels all over the state to talk about electricity to students, and she visited Bethel last week.
"So the main purpose was visiting the schools," Fisk said. "Part of my job is teaching about energy efficiency and wind energy."
Fisk has a program that she wants to bring to the Lower Kuskokwim School District. It’s designed to help kids conserve energy.
"We’re doing something called the Power Pledge Challenge throughout the state," Fisk said. "This is the first year that we’re in the Lower Kuskokwim School District."
So how does the Challenge work? Kids calculate how much electricity appliances use, like a refrigerator, a washer, or a dryer. Then, they promise to cut down on energy usage so they can enter to win prizes.
"We start with simple things like turning off your lights," Fisk said.
Rural Alaskans face high energy costs. The costs are so high that most home owners receive bills that are subsidized by the state, but the cost is still high enough to make it hard for many to pay the bill. Fisk says that it’s important for people to reduce their energy use. She also wants to correct some misconceptions about energy, like where it comes from and what technology is used to make electricity.
Much of the energy, like heating and electricty for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, comes from diesel generators, gas, and a small amount from wind turbines. All that technology has an environmental cost, like greenhouse gas emissions or killing birds. Fisk acknowledges that reducing heating costs in village homes will take more than individual actions by kids and parents, but can help reduce some electrical consumption. She also says that starting with kids can help educate parents on how to reduce energy costs.
"We tend to compare it to the No Smoking campaign," Fisk said. "I don’t necessarily say that using energy is same as that, obviously, because we need it for our quality of life."
Fisk planned visits to smaller schools in the district: Kwethluk, Kasigluk, and Kwigillingok, to talk about the Power Pledge Challenge and electricity. But she was only able to make it to one school, Kwethluk, as she was caught in a typical bush scenario: bad weather and a limited power grid.
"I was sitting in Grant Aviation trying to get to Kasigluk and we were on weather hold," she recalls. "It was foggy and we were waiting for it to clear up a little bit, and then the power goes out. I want to go out to talk energy and we don’t have power at the airport."
But she says that she just scheduled some video and internet conferences instead. That will use a little more power, but less aviation fuel.