This Green Group Wants To Penalize You for Using Natural Gas—and Obtain Your Private Data To Do So

Renewable Energy Alaska Project demands local utility provider fork over consumer data to help form green plan

Infrastructure Power Grid Renewable Energy
High-voltage electric transmission lines pass through a wind farm in Spearville, Kansas (AP)
February 29, 2024

A green energy advocacy group in Alaska is demanding a local utility provider fork over its consumers' private energy consumption data. The group wants to use that data to craft a new pricing plan that could penalize those who exceed a certain level of energy consumption.

Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP), an Anchorage-based nonprofit that works to secure "Alaska's clean energy future," petitioned state regulators last month in an attempt to compel the Chugach Electric Association to provide its customers' monthly energy consumption data. REAP says it needs that data to design a rate structure that would compel customers to use less natural gas—by charging them more once they surpass certain energy consumption thresholds.

Chugach, Alaska's largest electric utility, is refusing to hand over the data, citing privacy concerns. But if REAP convinces Alaska's regulatory commission to rule in its favor, the company won't have a say. Such a decision would effectively force Chugach to give the green energy group "the actual electricity consumption habits of virtually every resident and business in Anchorage," according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The ordeal reflects the left's ongoing attempts to stifle the use of natural gas, which nearly 60 million Americans use to heat their homes. In some liberal states and cities, including New York, Democratic lawmakers have moved to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings, effectively forcing the long-term phase out of fossil fuels.

REAP's strategy, however, is more subtle. If the group succeeds in reforming Chugach's rate structure, customers could be compelled to ditch natural gas on their own in favor of green alternatives, rather than pay the higher prices associated with natural gas consumption. REAP executive director Chris Rose confirmed that his group is considering proposing an "inclined block rate" pricing structure, which would require utility customers to pay higher rates as they use more energy.

"Basically, what they do is set a base rate for, say, whatever the first 500 kilowatt hours of usage and then the rate per kilowatt hour goes up as people use more," Rose told the Washington Free Beacon. "We have no idea whether or not that is exactly what we would propose until we have more information, but that is used in other places."

In addition to monthly energy consumption levels, the private data REAP requests would include the addresses and zip codes of individual customers, according to a January filing from Chugach's attorneys. In response to what he called "privacy concerns," Rose said that while his group does not want the data to "leak," it cannot craft its pricing plan without the information.

"We don't want the data to leak out. We respect the privacy concerns of individual customers," he told the Free Beacon. "But we need that data in order to develop rate design." Earlier this month, REAP submitted a motion to Alaska's regulatory commission that called the utility company's privacy concerns "exaggerated."

"Respondents Chugach and MEA claim that REAP's data request is a serious threat to their members' privacy interests," the motion says. "This claim is exaggerated and ignores the robust justification that REAP has provided to support its need to access the data."

That motion was filed by EarthJustice, which is representing REAP in the matter. Founded in 1971 as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, the San Francisco-based nonprofit provides free legal services in environmental litigation cases.

EarthJustice's involvement in the case suggests other green groups could replicate REAP's tactics if they prove successful.

EarthJustice is known for targeting oil and gas projects across the country and has received substantial funding from top left-wing foundations, including the Ford Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation. The nonprofit has also represented environmental groups suing to shut down natural gas export terminals and cheered on a Biden administration decision to pause such exports last month.

"We applaud the Biden administration for taking this tremendously important step to align its decision-making on gas exports with U.S. climate goals," EarthJustice president Abigail Dillen said in a statement. "As communities across the country face the devastating impacts of the climate crisis and fossil fuel pollution, it’s never been clearer that rubber-stamping LNG exports is not in the public interest."

For Rick Whitbeck, Alaska state director for energy advocacy group Power the Future, REAP's attempted data grab would create a concerning precedent if successful.

"There is no doubt that Alaska is once again being used as a laboratory by the green movement," he said. "This should be a clear warning: It's Alaska today, but it's your town or state next."

EarthJustice did not respond to a request for comment.