JUNEAU — The Senate cleared a plan Tuesday to let the Alaska Energy Authority build and operate a proposed Susitna River hydroelectric dam.
In November, the agency recommended the state pursue the Susitna project to help meet Alaska's goal of having 50 percent of its electricity generation come from renewable sources by 2025. The state had shelved the project roughly 25 years ago when the price of oil plummeted, erasing the dam's expected comparative advantage.
"Today Alaska is a long way from those times," Sen. Joe Thomas said. Cook Inlet natural gas reserves are "uncertain" and gas supplies can be better used for space heating than for the electricity generation.
The bill, Senate Bill 42, now heads to the House. Lawmakers are also poised to approve $66 million in spending to prepare for the project.
The Senate approved the bill unanimously.
Lawmakers watered the measure down from the original version pitched by Gov. Sean Parnell this winter. It holds no room, for example, for the Energy Authority to hire its own employees for the project — it currently works beneath the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority and has no employees. And the authority won't be able to create subsidiary corporations for the Susitna project, although it may need to as work advances.