Diesel Power Generation
Ketchikan gets its hydropower from several projects: Ketchikan Lakes, Silvis Lakes, Beaver Falls, Whitman Lake, along with SEAPA's Swan and Tyee Lake projects when available. When lake levels are low, supplemental diesel power may be required. KPU has several very large diesel generators at Bailey power plant and two smaller units at North Point Higgins. These are only used as backup generators, not for primary power generation unless lake levels are too low, and power is not available from SEAPA.
The diesel surcharge is added to your electric bill to cover the diesel fuel expense used in power generation when lake levels are too low to supply power. This only applies if diesel generation was needed for supplemental power. The rate for any month depends on the amount of diesel used in the previous six months. The rate is multiplied by the kilowatt usage in all rate classes (Business and Residential) and is added to the bill as a separate line item.
To calculate the diesel surcharge the total amount of diesel fuel, oil, and part expense used for the generators, and any diesel generator rental charges incurred in a month’s period are added together for a total diesel expense. Half of the amount is covered by the City/KPU. The other half is divided by the average number of kilowatts the community uses in that month to calculate the per kilowatt-hour diesel surcharge for that month. The per kilowatt charge is then divided by 6 so that one-sixth of the charge will be applied to each of the next six months. If the previous month(s) also required supplemental diesel, there potentially could be as many as six previous month’s surcharges applied to a bill. The surcharge rate for a month is multiplied by a customer’s kilowatt usage to determine how much each customer will pay.
Alternative Power Options
By using hydropower as our primary source of generation, Ketchikan is proud to be a clean energy provider!
The question of other sources of generation in place of diesel as the backup is fraught with complications. Most energy projects are governed by Federal and/or State agencies that have extensive permitting processes, which can take years to secure. It is not something that can be put in place in a few weeks or months. In particular, hydropower permitting takes 15 years or more. Additionally, there are pitfalls with both tidal power and wind turbines, as both of these have high upfront costs require continual maintenance.