Category Archives: Energy, Information

Policy Researchers Head Southeast to Meet with Building Communities

infrared image shows heat loss in the east end of the CCHRC Research Testing Facility

CCHRC is presenting one of the keynote addresses at the Alaska Municipal League (AML) Summer Legislative Meeting in Sitka this week. The AML, a statewide advocacy organization of 140 municipalities, meets each summer to discuss common issues and set legislative priorities at the state and federal levels.

CCHRC Senior Researcher for Energy Policy, Dr. John Davies, will present on energy efficiency as a resource for the sustainability of Alaskan communities. This will be a great opportunity to advance discussion of state energy efficiency policy recommendations that are part of work CCHRC is performing under a contract with the Alaska Energy Authority.  A long-term commitment to improving the energy efficiency of our buildings, appliances, and vehicles can reduce our need for energy by such large amounts that it should be considered as equivalent to large energy resources such as natural gas pipelines, hydroelectric dams, or coal-fired power plants.

Davies, along with Policy Research Director, Dr. Kathryn Dodge, will also visit Juneau and Ketchikan to meet with members of the building community about energy efficiency standards and the programs used to measure them. They will discuss and obtain feedback from builders, energy raters, and regulators on proposed policy recommendations, such as a statewide energy code, and present updates to a range of CCHRC programs.  One agenda item will be AkWarm, an AHFC computer program used to model energy use in homes and commercial buildings. AkWarm’s calculations are based on insulation levels, air tightness, and other thermal characteristics, and it is used to certify building for loans, rebates, and other purposes.

Capital budget shows some love to energy projects

CCHRC is testing how to maximize energy from the EconoBurn, to the right

Energy projects fared fairly well in the nearly $4 billion capital budget passed by the Alaska Legislature earlier this month.

“We owe the Interior delegation some thanks. It was a joint effort on the Senate side and the House side,” said John Davies, energy policy specialist at CCHRC.

CCHRC got $180,000 for infrastructure to support a $2 million addition to the building that is currently in design; and $61,600 to develop and study a wood-fired boiler and thermal storage system. Researchers are testing how much they can conserve firewood and curb particulate pollution by transferring extra heat from the boiler to a 1,400-gallon water tank to use for heating.

Additionally, the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. was granted $126 million to extend the very popular weatherization and home energy rebate programs started in 2008.

Other important statewide energy projects received funding, including $10 million for Golden Valley’s Eva Creek Wind Farm, $2 million for a tidal power project in Cook Inlet, $65 million for the Susitna hydroelectric project and nearly $2 million for a geothermal project at Mt. Spurr (in Cook Inlet).

The capital budget still needs to be approved by Gov. Sean Parnell.

What to do about moisture levels in your wood fuel


By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: Where can I get information on the moisture content of wood for burning in my stove?

Freshly cut wood can be very wet and can contain up to 80 percent moisture.

In terms of moisture for wood burning, 20 percent or less is ideal.

Fortunately, Fairbanks is a fairly dry climate, and if wood is cut in the spring, split, stacked and covered, it should be dry enough to burn by the fall.

However, do not cover a woodpile with tarps that drape over the sides.

Wood should be stored in a woodshed, or covered with a spare piece of plywood, roofing tin, or anything that will allow air to flow through the pile.

Also, stack the wood on pallets to avoid exposure to ground moisture.

The bottom line is, the drier the wood, the cleaner and more efficiently it will burn.

The more moisture in the wood, the less energy will come out of it as heat because the moisture has to be burned off as steam first.

Excessive moisture also creates problems with creosote.

Burning wood with a moisture content of 25 percent or higher the amount of pollution increases in the form of harmful particles exiting the chimney.

A moisture meter can identify how wet wood is.

Moisture meters are handheld devices with prongs that stick into the wood. They can be purchased locally or online and consumer models are relatively inexpensive.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.

World’s oil thirst leads to risks

From The Associated Press, Thursday, November 4, 2010:

The world’s thirst for crude is leading oil exploration companies into ever deeper waters and ventures fraught with environmental and political peril.

The days when the industry could merely drill on land and wait for the oil – and the profits – to flow are coming to an end. Because of that, companies feel compelled to sink wells at the bottom of deep oceans, inject chemicals into the ground to force oil to the surface, deal with unsavory regimes, or operate in some of the world’s most environmentally sensitive and inaccessible spots, far from ports and decent roads. All those factors could make it difficult to move in equipment and clean up a spill.

From the Arctic to Cuba to the coast of Nigeria, avoiding catastrophes like BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill is likely to become increasingly difficult and require cooperation among countries that aren’t used to working together.

Continue reading: World’s oil thirst leads to risks

Anchorage opts out of home weatherization program

From The Associated Press, Thursday, November 4, 2010:

The city of Anchorage is getting out of the home weatherization business.

The work can be done more efficiently by others, Mayor Dan Sullivan said Wednesday.

The city is withdrawing from the program at the end of March when its contract expires with the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

Nonprofit organizations doing the work in other parts of Alaska will likely pick up the work in the city, AHFC Executive Director told the Anchorage Daily News. The Alaska Community Development Corp. and the Rural Alaska Community Action Program could gear up to handle Anchorage too.

In 2008 the Legislature approved $200 million for weatherization and $160 million for energy rebates.

The state is paying to caulk, replace furnaces and boilers, and otherwise improve the energy efficiency of 500 households in Anchorage and 7,000 more in the rest of Alaska this year, Fauske said.

The municipality has been administering the weatherization services in Anchorage since 2007 and employs 17 people in the program who are paid through a state grant.

Continue reading: Anchorage opts out of home weatherization program

Abnormally high Fairbanks gas prices not abating soon

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sunday, October 24, 2010:

Gas prices aren’t cheap in Alaska. For many, expensive gas just comes with the territory of a high-cost-of-living area. For the past year, however, prices have been steadily 40-90 cents higher than the national average, according to As recently as mid-2009, they were almost equal. What happened?

One might think in an oil-rich state, the abundance might affect a supply-demand curve. The process to the market is not so simple.

Two oil refineries operate in the state — Tesoro Alaska and Flint Hills Resources. They both produce jet fuel, diesel and gasoline among other things, and only a portion of their crude oil supply comes from Alaska. When they look around, they don’t see many other competitors. In fact, they are considered an oligopoly in the state.

Since they have so much influence over prices, they have been accused of marking up the cost of their crude oil, which usually makes up about half the amount of gasoline prices. ­

In 2009, the State House of Representatives created House Bill 68 to prevent price gouging among Alaskan refineries. Fairbanks Rep. Scott Kawasaki sponsored the bill.

“I think they’re just making gross profits,” Rep. Kawasaki said about the two refineries. “They’re basically abusing consumers.”

EIA: Home Heating Costs to Increase Slightly This Winter

From the U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wednesday, October 20, 2010:

A warmer heating season this year will somewhat offset increased costs for heating fuels, causing most U.S. households to experience only a 3% increase in home heating costs, according to DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA expects the lower 48 states to be 3% warmer than last year during the October-March winter heating season, although the projections vary by region. For instance, the Northeast is expected to experience a colder heating season than last year, resulting in a 5% increase in energy consumption for heating. The region is also the dominant user of fuel oil for home heating, and price increases for the heating fuel will drive up the average cost of home heating in the region by 13%, or about $259 on average. Households using electricity for heating are on the opposite end of the scale, as an expected decrease in both prices and consumption will yield a 2% savings in home heating costs relative to last year. The majority of U.S. households falls between these extremes, with homes heated with natural gas experiencing a 4% increase in heating costs, while those using propane will spend an average of 8% more this winter. See the EIA press release.

Continue reading: EIA: Home Heating Costs to Increase Slightly This Winter

Future of Interior Alaska energy leads District 10 race between John Brown, Steve Thompson

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Tuesday, October 19, 2010:

There’s an obvious theme in the campaign for House District 10, and even the two candidates involved say it’s hard to overlook.

Both Democrat John Brown and Republican Steve Thompson say energy is the issue that contributes to most of the challenges that Fairbanks residents face. It costs too much to heat a home or business in the Interior, they agree, which in turn leads to barriers to job creation, employment and basic quality of life.

Brown and Thompson have heard it plenty when they talk to constituents in District 10, which includes east Fairbanks and Fort Wainwright.

“You’re knocking on doors, and people are saying ‘We’re moving, we can’t afford to live here anymore,’” Thompson said. “That’s not good.”

Free class on cold-climate building to be offered in Bethel

From The Tundra Drums, Friday, October 14, 2010:

A free class will be offered in conjunction with Bethel’s second annual energy fair.

The Advanced Cold Climate Building Techniques will take place Oct. 28 and 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in room 118 at UAF’s Kuskokwim University Campus in Bethel.

For those who wish to earn CEUs, or Continuing Education Units, the cost is $45. This class gives licensed builders and construction folks a residential certification. (This is a $480 class in Anchorage.)

Continue reading: University offers free class on cold-climate building

Borough tries to reconcile ballot measure, Fairbanks air pollution rules

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Saturday, October 15, 2010:

The borough halted enforcement of new air quality rules — none had taken place yet anyway — and officials await a legal opinion about other aspects of the air quality program, which was diluted by the voters last week.

“There are a number of things that are going to have to change,” air quality director Glenn Miller said. “There will be an ordinance that will come forward in the near future that will address these changes.”

The vote approving Proposition A effectively ended rules about the types of wood stoves that can be installed in the borough and threw out fines that applied to smoke emissions and the burning of certain items, including tires, chemicals and animal carcasses.