AM 890 and Serving the Kenai Peninsula
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Federal agency plans to expand renewable energy in lower Cook Inlet

Previous Cook Inlet lease sales have been canceled due to lack of industry interest.
Sabine Poux
Developing offshore renewable energy in lower Cook follows a presidential directive to have 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is working on expanding renewable energy in the Lower Cook Inlet in the form of offshore wind and tidal energy – which could be as far as miles away from land in federal waters. Jamie Diep sat down with the bureau’s Alaska regional director Givey Kochanowski to talk about the shift from gas to renewable energy in Cook Inlet.

The following is a transcript of an interview with Kochanowski that has been edited for brevity.

Givey Kochanowski: The president has called for 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, and as part of that, our bureau within the Department of Interior has been deploying wind leases around the country. There's been some very good progress on the East Coast and the Atlantic. There recently was an offshore renewable energy lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. My counterpart in the Pacific is leading an effort on the west coast for renewables. And we are the smallest region here in Alaska. But we also are learning from our counterparts around the Bureau of what's working, benchmarking best practices, and learning from the challenges that they faced in this process. This is a really aggressive goal to have 30 gigawatts of wind. And we believe looking at the facts for Cook Inlet that, especially lower Cook Inlet. There's a good resource potential here. 68% of the net wind potential in the US is in Alaska, and much of that is in Lower Cook Inlet

Jamie Diep: There has been a recent push from the state for oil and gas leases in Cook Inlet. Is there anything happening on the federal side related to this?

GK: Oil only the gas is our legacy. That's what created our original organization, the Mineral Management Service, and we have active leases that we manage for the federal government here in Alaska, both in Cook Inlet and on the North Slope. We have a current five year plan for oil and gas development that does not include Alaska. There were some presidential withdrawals, so currently, we are maintaining the status quo, but we're not expanding in the oil and gas area under this five year plan.

JD: What was the reason for that?

This is a presidential directive. Congress could overrule it. Congress could mandate a lease sale through some congressional action, but right now, our mission is to be environmentally responsible and economically responsible in managing the offshore. So whatever direction we get nationally, our role as the regional office is to implement that within our region. And the focus right now is to get us moving in five new areas in Alaska. One is renewables through the Cook Inlet workgroup. And what we are discussing. Second are these emerging portfolios of carbon storage, which could affect Cook Inlet, as well as critical minerals offshore.

As any good and responsible federal agency, we always care about our public administration, how we actually do the business of government, and we're working on focusing on that this year. And then why we're down here this week is our fifth goal for the region, and that is increased public outreach. Not many people know about our agency. So first of all, educating them on what we do and how we do it responsibly, followed by what are the opportunities associated with the offshore and getting people to know about that. And we're talking to everybody that's willing to talk with us. We've met with the mayor here in the borough, your economic development district, Cook Inletkeepers, wide diversity of stakeholders, tribes, chamber of commerces, city leadership, anybody that really has an interest in Cook Inlet and our work.

JD: What has been the feedback been towards expanding renewable energy, especially from people in the southern Kenai Peninsula?

GK: I think we've heard very positive comments overall. I mean, there's caution and questions, of course, and we do our due diligence to make sure that we're complying with the Endangered Species Act and NEPA and other federal environmental laws. But right now, we're here to learn and listen. Our goal is to hopefully have something in action in about three years. But to do that right and well, we need to build a coalition of the willing and bring people along to the point where their concerns are addressed.

We are transparent in what we're doing, and we hear from all stakeholders and all interest groups and I mean, that's fishing groups, that's industry financers, developers, local community members, community councils, anybody that really has an interest in Lower Cook Inlet’s development. And people have different reasons for supporting this. Some are economic, some are environmental, some about climate, so I think we're building a really unique cohort of support because there are many reasons to support the transition towards renewable energy in our state.

JD: So you have a goal of trying to get things going in three years, and you've been talking to different groups and stakeholders. What are your next steps from here?

GK: There's a lot to learn, and a lot to do this right, so our goal this year is to do listening sessions and be much more present on the Kenai. You know, with COVID and coming out of that right now, there has not been a lot of engagement with our department down here. And our hope is that we can turn that around.

Our goal is to be down here roughly on a monthly basis for public listening sessions and educational sessions to share what the potential of the offshore is, what this could look like and such. But ultimately, our goal is to get to a renewable energy lease sale, where we have an opportunity that investors and developers could bid on to develop offshore energy in the renewable sense for Cook Inlet.

JD: How has feedback and working with the state been?

GK: The state's been great. We've had very good support on that. You know, the governor has an energy taskforce looking at many of these issues. Cook Inlet is part of the solution, in my opinion, and I think it's great that we've had really good response from the state with the Cook Inlet workgroup, and not just with the state but also with stakeholders. We've had really, really positive response to sharing our message, and this new direction of the organization and where we're trying to go to really broaden our portfolio. We’ll always be in the oil and gas business I believe, and we're doing that well and right and duty responsibly, but there's so much more to our agency than just oil and gas. And that's what we're trying to educate Alaskans on right now is that there is a very big space for renewables, for critical minerals, and eventually for carbon storage potentially in our, in our region.

Additional information and feedback on renewable energy in Cook Inlet can be directed to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management website or by calling the Alaska regional office at 907-334-5200.

Local News Kenai Peninsula NewsRenewable EnergyCook Inlet
Jamie Diep is a reporter/host for KBBI from Portland, Oregon. They joined KBBI right after getting a degree in music and Anthropology from the University of Oregon. They’ve built a strong passion for public radio through their work with OPB in Portland and the Here I Stand Project in Taipei, Taiwan.Jamie covers everything related to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and they’re particularly interested in education and environmental reporting. You can reach them at to send story ideas.