by Jomo Stewart

This Wednesday, Nov. 4, representatives of the top five companies vying for the opportunity to deliver expanded supplies of natural gas to the Interior will be at the Pioneer Park Civic Center from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30pm. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for them, the state and our community, they will be here to put their best feet forward, and deliver directly to our community, summaries of their “best and final offers” for bringing affordable energy (as inexpensively as possible, to as many as possible, as quickly as possible) to the residents and businesses of the Fairbanks North Star Borough — to you. They are coming to you, for you, to speak directly to and hear directly from you — you should be there.

As noted in Fairbanks Economic Development’s Community Perspective of Sept. 20, a great many organizations, companies and individuals have been working overtime for a long time to bring expanded supplies of more affordably priced natural gas to our community — to you. Much of that work (such as the installation, in just the last two summers, of nearly 135 miles of natural gas distribution piping across Fairbanks and North Pole by local gas utilities Fairbanks Natural Gas and the Interior Gas Utility) has occurred right before our eyes and been related to the direct delivery of natural gas to consumers.

Much other work, however, has been happening beyond our immediate gaze; performed by the public actor tasked with identifying, acquiring and aligning the infrastructure and resource pieces needed to get natural gas to our town and into those shiny new pipes, and those private sector actors hoping to produce and/or deliver that natural gas to our community.

For the bulk of the year, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has been making good on the promise it made to the Legislature, Administration, private sector and this community to, under an expanded Interior Energy Project framework, openly and thoroughly assess all options for rapidly reducing and stabilizing the cost of energy in the Interior. Assess those options and move expeditiously toward a coordinated and comprehensive solution to our rollercoaster cost of energy and clean air challenges.

At the top of the year, AIDEA, with the assistance of FEDC, the Energy for All Alaska Task Force, and other state-wide and community partners, performed a high- to ground-level assessment of all options for energy relief for the Interior, including large and small diameter gaslines (from both north and south), North Slope HVDC electric delivery, propane importation from a host of sources, whole-sale transition to wood and wood-base solid fuels, and more.

At the same time, with the support of the Administration, AIDEA reviewed and then moved to buy out the out-of-state owners of Pentex Alaska (the parent company of FNG, and Titan LNG production and AET trucking companies that supply it, which had for years been offering to sell those assets) in the hopes of, thereby, bringing an immediate appreciable reduction to the cost of natural gas delivered to current Fairbanks consumers.

In the spring, and partially in response to concerns raised during the legislative session, AIDEA issued a Request for Information to natural gas explorers, developers and producers operating in the Cook Inlet to ascertain the availability, security and cost of supply from that region. And, receiving a wide and favorable response to that inquiry, this summer, then offered an all-sources, all-comers request for proposals for a resource to Fairbanks project development partner — someone with the wherewithal, experience and capacity to take the physical and financial tools available to AIDEA (an LNG facility in Big Lake, LNG trailers and $250 million-plus grants, low interest flexible loans and bonding authority) and turn them into a functioning project delivering clean, reliable, low-cost energy to the Interior.

AIDEA received more than a dozen responses to that RFP — with resources as varied as propane, pipeline gas and LNG, and from sources as diverse as the North Slope, Cook Inlet and Canada — and willowed them down to five finalists.

It is these finalists — Hilcorps’ Harvest LLC, Phoenix Clean Energy, Avista Corps’ Salix Inc., Spectrum LNG and WESPAC — that are now coming directly to you to explain why they and their respective proposals are the best fit for our community energy project and most likely to help us achieve our community energy goals.

Help us, you and our community, construct the community energy project to meet and satisfy our community energy goals.

On Wednesday, Nov. 4, AIDEA — who has done so much to advance our Interior Energy Project – will be at the Pioneer Park Civic Center from 5:30-8:30 p.m. with the five credible, competent and capable companies who are working and striving to be our community’s partner in our community energy project. They are coming for you. Be there.

Jomo Stewart is a energy, mining and military projects manager for the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp.