The Price of Power in Alaska

In the rural fishing village of Angoon, Alaska, electricity rates are ten times higher than the national average.
© angoonartists.org

Electricity rates in the fishing village of Angoon, Alaska, are $1,200 per month on average, 10 times higher than rates in the rest of the U.S. The Sustain Angoon Project hopes to decrease reliance on fossil fuels in the village while raising the standard of living. Through donations, the Angoon project intends to audit homes and provide basic retrofit technologies to increase energy efficiency. The project also hopes that the savings generated from the efficient technologies will be used to boost the local economy.

The project has already gotten to work setting up a demonstration house to provide a model for residents to showcase the energy-saving techniques it hopes to use throughout the town. The home's owner, Peggy Williams, says: "It"ll be nice to live in a warm house, reduce my energy consumption, and be able to get some of my power from the sun."

Angoon is the only permanent settlement on Admiralty Island. Originally home to the Kootznoowoo Tlinget tribe, the rural village can only be accessed by boat or plane. The local economy runs primarily on fishing and local services. In 2000, the median household income was estimated at about $29,861 with per capita income at $11,357.

The average cost of diesel fuel in the village ranges from 49 cents/kWh to 59 cents/kWh. In 2008, the average price for diesel fuel stood at 54 cents/kWh. Poor economic conditions continue to threaten the lifestyle of native residents. As many move to local hubs in search of jobs and lower living costs, the town's population has rapidly declined. Unemployment rates stand at around 50%. From 2000 to 2008, 30% of Angoon residents moved out, and the initial population of 572 now stands at 430. About 30% of Angoon residents, or 160 people, live below the poverty line.

The Angoon Project wants to expand to other rural areas throughout the Alaskan Southeast. In the meantime, to better promote and educate local residents, the project intends to create an educational DVD to jumpstart basic changes that can be made now.

SOURCE: Sustain Angoon.