|Program||# of Grants||EDA Funds|
|Regional Innovation Strategies||1||$499,064|
In 2015, the national average price of electricity in the United States was approximately 12 cents per kilowatt hour.1 Yet in many rural parts of the state, electricity rates can rise as high as $1 per kilowatt hour. In the most poverty stricken Alaskan communities, households expend up to 47% of their cash income on energy2 —rates that would be staggering for any community, but are especially dire for remote Alaskan communities already dealing with unemployment and underemployment ranging between 25 and 75 percent. The high cost of rural Alaska energy, a negative in nearly every context, does provide one opportunity: it positions Alaska as a pioneer in the field of microgrid research, development, and implementation. Microgrids, small-scale power grids capable of operating independently from an interconnected electrical grid, can be a primary power source in remote communities not connected to a larger power source. Remote microgrids are commonly utilized in villages, islands, industrial mines, and military installations, where an independent, uninterrupted power source is either a safety necessity, or the only practical means for power generation. Alaska has the largest remote microgrid demand of any state in the United States, and one of the largest demands in the world, making it a perfect incubator for new microgrid technologies. Many projects that would otherwise not be financially feasible in other parts of the country not only make economic sense in Alaska, but are a basic necessity. Through the i6 Challenge, EDA awarded $500,000 to the University of Alaska ‒ Fairbanks in March 2015 to establish the Alaska Center for Microgrid Technologies Commercialization. The Center will provide the technical and business assistance required to accelerate commercialization and implementation of the technologies needed to improve the affordability and reliability of microgrid energy systems. The microgrid energy industry is of particular importance in remote or isolated regions characterized by high energy costs, such as those in Alaska and other developing regions of the world.
1.January 2015, Average Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a