Energy Flow

Energy Flow in Alaska

In order to reduce the cost of energy for Alaskans, it is important to understand how energy is produced and how it is used. The energy flow diagram below describes the inputs for Alaska energy consumption, as well as the amount used by the residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors.

Energy flow diagrams are useful for visualizing where energy comes from and where it goes. They also demonstrate the inefficiencies associated with various energy conversion technologies as energy is ‘lost’ between the energy produced (left side of diagram = 1,726 trillion btus), energy exports (top of the diagram = 1,342 trillion btus), energy consumed (right hand side = 444 trillion btus), and energy imported (bottom of the diagram = 47 trillion btus). This is particularly evident in the production of electricity, where on average 67% of the energy used by our power plants is dissipated as waste heat.

What is 1 trillion btus?

The units used for the energy flow diagram are in trillion btus (British Thermal Units), where 1 btu
is the energy required to raise 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit. Another way to understand
what a trillion btus represents is that each Alaskan uses nearly 1 million BTUs per day; so 1 trillion
BTUs is about enough energy for a day and a half of energy use for all of Alaska.

Alaska’s total energy consumption in 2009 = 630 trillion BTUs divided into the following sectors:

  • Residential 53 Trillion BTUs
  • Commercial 61 Trillion BTUs
  • Industrial 325 Trillion BTUs
  • Transportation 190 Trillion BTUs

Figures from Energy Information Administration.

Unfortunately, the picture of energy flow for the entire state of Alaska does little to show what is happening in any particular region, let alone in a single community. For example, a large fraction of the hydropower is produced in southeast Alaska, while natural gas is a large component of energy supply in the Anchorage area and Kenai Peninsula, as well as a few communities on the North Slope. Coal is solely used in Interior Alaska for both power generation and heating.


Source: ISER calculations, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Waterborne Commerce of the U.S., Alaska Energy Authority and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. ISER's "Alaska Energy Statistics 1960-2008", published in May 2011.

The State of Alaska has a goal of generating 50% of the State's electric needs from renewable and alternative sources by 2025, while continuing to develop the State's vast oil and gas reserves, and for increasing energy efficiency statewide by 15% by 2020.

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