History

The utility has been providing “positive energy” for more than 80 years, ever since the city bought its distribution system in 1932. Electricity allowed the young city to flourish. Anchorage was a tent outpost in 1916 when the Alaska Engineering Commission introduced service here. The city operated the electrical distribution system under a lease agreement, first with the AEC and later with the Alaska Railroad. This lease agreement continued until 1932 when the city bought the electrical distribution system for $11,351.

Extraordinary efforts were taken at times to meet electric demand. A small steam plant and diesel power generators supplied Anchorage with electricity until 1929. That year, the private Anchorage Power & Light Company began supplying electricity from a hydroelectric power plant on the Eklutna River, 40 miles northeast of Anchorage. In 1943, the city acquired the Eklutna Plant from Anchorage Power & Light Company.

In the mid-1940s, Anchorage ’s next major power source sailed into the port. The Sacketts Harbor was a 10,000-ton T2 tanker (see photo on the left) that had broken up in the Aleutian Islands. The ship’s drive was electric, so Anchorage purchased it to generate electricity. From 1947 to 1955, Sacketts Harbor furnished 54 percent of the city’s power requirements.

In 1955, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation completed construction of a new larger plant on the Eklutna River and the city contracted for 16,000 kilowatts of generating capacity from that plant. At the same time, “Little” Eklutna was transferred to the federal government.

Over the next 50 years, Alaska became a state and North America’s largest oil field was discovered on the North Slope. ML&P modernized to keep pace with the ever-growing demand.

Between 1962 and 1984, ML&P installed seven turbine generating units fired by natural gas and one heat recovery steam turbine generating unit. Five of the seven turbines have dual-fuel capability, which enhances ML&P’s reliability in the event of disruption of the natural gas transportation system.

In 1996, ML&P, Chugach Electric Association and Matanuska Electric Association jointly took over the Eklutna Hydroelectric Power Plant. Later that year, ML&P purchased a one-third working interest in the Beluga River Gas Field. In 2016, the utility acquired a greater share of BRU, bringing its total working interest to 56.67. The 2016 acquisition establishes a guaranteed low-cost fuel supply over the following two decades.

ML&P continues to operate seven natural-gas-fired turbines and one heat-recovery steam turbine at the Hank Nikkels and George M. Sullivan generation plants. The utility operates the Eklutna Hydroelectric Project, with additional rights to hydro power at Bradley Lake. ML&P purchased a one-third working interest in the Beluga River Unit gas field in the mid 1990s, giving it a stable and long-term supply of fuel. ML&P also owns 30 percent of the Southcentral Power Project commissioned in 2013.

With the commissioning of Plant 2A, Alaska’s most energy-efficient, thermal-generation plants, in 2016, ML&P now has a combined total generation capacity of 407 MW.

In addition to its own water, gas, generation, transmission and distribution, ML&P is the south-end controller of the Anchorage-Fairbanks Intertie transmission line.