Hydro power is back following repairs of fire-damaged transmission lines

The Bradley Lake Hydroelectric facility, image from Alaska Energy Authority.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - (Editors note: this story has been modified to include comments by AEA executive director Curtis Thayer about the estimated costs of repairs and the costs to consumers)

Power lines transmitting hydroelectric energy from the Bradley Lake facility have been repaired ahead of schedule, according to a press release from the Chugach Electric Association.

Energy companies originally estimated extensive damage to the transmission lines – a result of the Swan Lake Fire which burned almost 170,000 acres over the summer. The lines have been down since Aug. 18, and were re-energized on Thursday following repairs by the Homer Electric Association.

According to Chugach Electric, the damage was less extensive than it had anticipated. However, companies were forced to supplement the lost hydroelectric power with natural gas, which is more expensive than hydro. This lead Chugach to raise customer prices to offset the added energy costs.

Chugach’s cost to provide power increased approximately $2.7 million while the line was not in service, according to the company.

Chugach customers using an average of 600 kilowatts per hour, per month, saw an increase of just under $3.00 on their monthly bill. The company expects to recover the cost through increased electric rates by the end of the first quarter of 2020.

Alaska Energy Authority Executive Director Curtis Thayer previously estimated repairs would cost around $15 million, but Thayer said Friday that the damage was less than expected. While the total amount is still being added up, Thayer expects the repairs to cost less than $1-million.

Thayer added that because of the hydro plant being off-line, railbelt utilities were forced to use more natural gas to generate electricity, and that the costs to consumers of several utilities would add up to around $12-million extra.

“Chugach appreciates our members' patience and understanding as we continue to provide the most reliable and cost-efficient power,” Chugach wrote in its Thursday press release.

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