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Alaska bill to establish community energy program passes legislature, awaits governor’s signature

Alaska joins a rapidly growing list of states enabling community solar across the country

JUNEAU, AK — Senate Bill 152, “Saving Alaskans Money with Voluntary Community Energy,” has passed the Alaska State Legislature and now awaits Governor Dunleavy’s signature to become law. SB 152 will allow Alaskans to subscribe to community-owned solar arrays not located on their home or property, opening up clean energy access for the first time to the more than 260,000 Alaskans who live in rental housing and 79,000 who are living below the Federal poverty level.

The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Senators Bill Wielechowski, Forrest Dunbar, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Scott Kawasaki and Representatives Ashley Carrick, Stanley Wright, Cliff Groh, Andy Josephson, Alyse Galvin, Donna Mears, and Calvin Schragehas.

This legislative victory comes on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Earth Day announcement that lead applicant Alaska Energy Authority, along with the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, has been awarded $62.5 million to “span from urban, residential projects to community-scale, rural projects across Alaska,” and to deliver the benefits of solar to low-income and disadvantaged communities.

“This is common sense legislation that allows Alaskans to access the fastest-growing segment of the renewable energy industry. With billions of dollars available from private financing and federal incentives, the bipartisan SAVE Act will enable Alaskans to supercharge the deployment of low-cost, clean electrical generation, further diversifying generation sources and providing significant consumer bill savings. This is a bright day for Alaska!” said Phil Wight, Policy Analyst, Alaska Public Interest Research Group.

Community solar refers to local solar facilities shared by multiple subscribing customers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. It provides homeowners, renters, and small businesses equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy generation regardless of the physical attributes or ownership of their home or business. It expands access to solar, in particular serving as a key tool to enable participation by low-to-moderate income customers who often cannot afford a rooftop solar system or may not own their home. If SB 152 is signed,  subscribers can expect to see 10% – 20% savings on their monthly electric bills.

“It’s nice to see Alaska embrace the power of local, clean, distributed energy as an important part of their overall energy mix. Community solar offers Alaskans a unique opportunity to directly participate in the clean energy economy while saving money on their electricity bills. We applaud the legislature for recognizing this as a net positive for their constituents and urge Gov. Dunleavy to sign this bill,” said Kevin Cray, Mountain West Senior Regional Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access.

This comes at a crucial moment for Alaska’s energy transition — with growing concerns around the Cook Inlet natural gas crisis, Alaskan utilities are looking to diversify their energy sources with renewables. Community solar also presents an opportunity to build a stronger and more resilient electric grid. The majority of Alaskans support solar energy development, but most have been unable to personally benefit from distributed renewable generation. Community solar stands to change that. 

“The Alaska Center understands first hand the need for this Community Energy reform. We’ve heard so many times through our Solarize programs: What if I’m a renter? What if I can’t personally afford a solar installation? Finally, all Alaskans on the Railbelt will be able to subscribe to community energy installations and benefit from low-cost renewable power. Alaskans can decide to access or create Community Energy — and this gets us closer to a more equitable energy environment, where clean energy is available to all Alaskans,” said Chantal de Alcuaz, Co-Executive Director, The Alaska Center.

“It is indeed exciting to see Alaska’s legislature embrace this proven energy solution. The projects this legislation will support, if signed into law by Gov. Dunleavy, will have a real impact on the people of Alaska by bringing low-cost energy closer to where people live. I’m excited to see what this brings for the state of Alaska and we’re committed to supporting the development of an effective program. Congratulations to everyone who made this a reality, including and especially the bipartisan group of legislators behind this effort,” said Sarah Moon, Co-Founder, Fieldworks Power, LLC.

Over the past decade, the number of states that have enacted policies to support third-party shared or community solar has expanded from just a few to 22 states, including Washington, D.C. A collective 6.6 gigawatts (GW) of generation capacity has been installed to date, and Wood Mackenzie’s most recent US community solar market outlook predicts that there will be 14 GWdc power installed across the country by the end of 2028.