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Chugach Electric alerts members of rate increases due to wildfire

Loss of Bradley Lake hydropower impacts cost

Chugach Electric Association, Inc., is alerting members to expect rate increases in the coming months following the Swan Lake Fire which damaged the transmission line that connects the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project to the Chugach system.

The transmission line has been out of service for several weeks at the request of fire crews fighting the fire, which has now burned over 167,000 acres on the Kenai Peninsula.

Because of the loss of access to Bradley Lake power, more natural gas is being used and will continue to be until the line is repaired and back in service. Rate increases may not show up immediately, but Chugach is estimating members will see bills rise between 3 and 6 percent over time until the line is back in service. Natural gas is a more expensive power source than hydroelectric power, and Bradley Lake generally makes up about 10 percent of Chugach’s power supply requirements.

“We want our members to have notice that they will see rates increase as a result of this fire due to damage to the transmission line that connects Chugach to the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project,” said Chugach CEO Lee Thibert. “This is a case of a natural disaster impacting the power grid, and we will continue to work with fire managers and our neighboring utilities to find out when it’s safe to go in and assess the damage and make a plan for repairs.”

According to Alaska Wildland Fire Information, the Swan Lake Fire is 68 percent contained. There are still hot spots along the transmission line that have kept ground crews from getting in to do a full damage assessment. A recent aerial survey showed fire damaged more than 60 poles and associated structures.

Bradley Lake is the largest of seven hydroelectric facilities in Alaska, producing up to 10 percent of the energy needs in the Railbelt. The power lines damaged by the Swan Lake Fire connect the Bradley Lake project with Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and Fairbanks. Bradley Lake provides power to Chugach, the City of Seward, Homer Electric Association, Municipal Light & Power, Matanuska Electric Association, and Golden Valley Electric Association. Because Homer Electric’s service territory is south of the damaged line section, Homer is still receiving power from Bradley Lake.

There have been two recent news stories about this issue: