Sitka Conservation Society works to build community capacity, skill sets, programs and initiatives that are increasing local resilience to the impacts of climate change. We believe that Sitka can be a model for how rural communities across the nation can inspire municipalities to take climate action, invest in renewable energy production, and take measures to decarbonize transportation and building sectors. Climate change is at the intersection of everything we do at SCS, from supporting youth in finding their voices to advocate for the future they want to see, to increasing production of local food to decrease our dependency on imported goods, to advocating for the expansion of affordable and locally produced clean energy to power our communities.
With new programs offered in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), financial assistance is more readily available for households to buy heat pumps, EVs, weatherization measures, electric panels, induction stoves, and more. Learn more about how to take advantage of these incentives here.
Sitka is one of only ten communities across the United States that is 100% powered by renewable energy.
Rain and snowmelt power two salmon-friendly hydroelectric dams owned and managed by a municipal utility. Sitka Conservation Society has supported the expansion of Sitka’s hydroelectric generation capacity and utilization through workforce development efforts, energy education, initiatives that demonstrate use of the energy, communication projects on energy advancements, and advocating for policies that support clean energy expansion and adoption locally and across the nation.
SCS supports energy education efforts to increase understanding of Sitka’s utility system and generation capacity. We conduct education and outreach efforts by issuing reports on Sitka’s energy future, hosting internships that build workforce skills needed to undertake the energy transition, and collaborating with a variety of local entities to advocate for increased investments in renewable energy generation capacity and use.
On the policy front, SCS has helped amplify local voices and perspectives to federal decision makers by engaging youth and building advocacy skills, raised the profile of the importance of the Tongass National Forest for addressing climate change and producing renewable energy, brought attention to the challenges and opportunities for developing renewable energy on the Tongass National Forest, and increased equitable access to renewable energy energy infrastructure to hasten the transition from fossil fuels.
Municipal Action on Climate Change
Sitka’s local abundance of hydropower and small road system make it an ideal community to undertake municipal and community-wide decarbonization efforts. The Sitka Conservation Society supports this through advocacy on policies and projects, participating in advisory bodies and forums that inform Sitka’s energy transition, operating of a Sitka Carbon Offset Fund, and sharing information and learnings region-wide to assist climate efforts in other communities.
Sitka Conservation Society has focused on encouraging the municipality to invest in climate action by advocating for the creation of a municipal climate action task force and then a Sustainability Commission, widespread adoption of electric-powered air-source heat pumps on behalf of individuals and businesses, and incorporation of climate concerns into capital projects and long-range planning efforts. These efforts date back prior to 2010, when the first municipal Climate Action Task Force was assembled and wrote a climate action plan. SCS staff and board served on the task force, and data gathering was also supported by a joint internship between the City of Sitka and Sitka Conservation Society. We continued to work with the City to advance clean energy initiatives and use, and in 2019, SCS helped organize community support for a climate emergency declaration and reinstatement of the Climate Action Task Force by collaborating with local high school students that created the advocacy group Youth for Sustainable Futures.
After the resolution successfully passed in 2020, SCS staff were appointed to the Climate Action Task Force, while we continued to support local youth engagement and skills development through internships and advocacy opportunities. The Climate Action Task Force catalyzed additional municipal investment in climate change through the passage of a resolution that stated the municipality’s intention to decarbonize municipal operations by 2030, while supporting the ability of the broader community to also undertake these measures by crafting policy, incentives, and infrastructure investments that can help the community meet these goals. The Climate Action Task Force was disbanded in 2022 with the creation of a permanent Sustainability Commission with a designated staff position tasked with addressing issues of economic, ecological, and social sustainability across the community, including energy independence, tourism, and municipal solid waste. Sitka Conservation Society continues to advocate for climate action and energy transitions through this body, as well as helping other communities catalyze similar action and advocate for broad federal investments and initiatives to help Southeast Alaska mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Using Federal and Regional Incentives to Change Household Energy Use
Embracing renewable energy technology and energy-efficient practices that reduce fossil fuel consumption is critical to building a resilient Southeast where people and place can thrive for generations to come. The move toward electrification can help us build a more sustainable world while benefiting multiple areas of society — the health of the environment will improve when we burn fewer fossil fuels, consumers will gain access to more reliable and affordable energy systems, and electric utilities will receive more demand for their product. This movement away from fossil fuels is well underway in Southeast Alaska — the region receives 95% of its electricity from hydropower, making it a national leader in renewable energy. However, barriers remain, both for the distribution of renewable energy throughout the region (most hydropower generation is concentrated in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka), and for households, organizations, and businesses that want to switch to clean energy technologies.
The programs offered in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — a piece of federal legislation signed in 2022 — expand access to clean energy and energy efficiency measures and can financially benefit households.