On July 17, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska finished notifying utility companies that they will not receive any Power Cost Equalization credits for Fiscal Year 2020. That means starting this month, people in rural Alaska will pay the high cost of electricity without any state subsidy. But that could still change.
AVEC provides electricity to 58 communities in rural Alaska. CEO and President Meera Kohler said that, “PCE represents arguably about half of the electric bill, so their electric bill will immediately double.”
In dollar amounts, that’s about $100 to $150 a month for the average household in rural Alaska. In Bethel, the average increase will be around $40 to $60 because the cost of fuel is less than in the villages. Kohler says that the increased electric bill will just be a portion of the increase in utility costs since electricity is a major budget item for water and sewer treatment plants.
“So not only will their electricity go up, their water bill and sewer bill is going to go up dramatically too,” Kohler said.
Kohler says that she feels sick thinking about the effects of eliminating PCE.
“I mean, it literally makes my stomach hurt,” Kohler said. “It is such a low blow. It just feels like 35 years of promises and commitments have been swept out the door."
But some people are more optimistic. The Alaska Energy Authority writes the check to utility companies for PCE credits, and AEA Executive Director Curtis Thayer says that he expects PCE to come back.
“The governor is supportive of PCE, the legislators are supportive of it,” Thayer said. “We expect that funding to be restored. And when that’s done, people will be made whole on their electrical bills on their credits from July 1.”
Thayer’s prediction will depend on action from the state legislature, which will be more of a possibility now that Gov. Mike Dunleavy has changed his special session call to bring lawmakers together in Juneau.