ML&P: 75 years of powering Anchorage; power company's stability contributes to development of Anchorage.

Author:Orr, Vanessa
 
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This year, Municipal Light and Power (ML&P) celebrates its 75th year of providing electric service to Anchorage. Though the area it serves is fairly small-approximately 20 square miles-the impact that the utility has had on the growth of the city and the development of the electrical industry in Alaska cannot be underestimated.

From the days of providing power to the city from a battered World War II freighter, to getting electricity flowing to much of Anchorage within five hours of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, ML&P has always made it a priority to provide its customers with a reliable source of electricity.

"Our stability has helped to contribute to Anchorage's growth because we are always online; we always have power," said ML&P General Manager James Posey of the company's .9999 percent reliability rating. "We are here for our customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year."

Providing electrical service to Anchorage was not always such a streamlined process. In 1916, the Alaska Engineering Commission (AEC) introduced electrical service to Anchorage. In 1921, the city began operating this distribution system under a lease agreement with AEC, and later with the Alaska Railroad. The city got into the electric business when it purchased the distribution system in 1932 for $11,351, which is considered the start of ML&P.

Anchorage's power was supplied by a small steam plant and diesel power generators until 1929, when Anchorage Light & Power, a private company founded by Frank Ivan Reed, began supplying the city with power from a 2,000 kilowatt hydroelectric plant on the Eklutna River. Upon voter approval in 1943, the city acquired the Eklutna plant from Anchorage Light & Power Company for $1 million.

Despite the addition of the Eklutna plant, Anchorage still had trouble meeting the demand for electricity, mainly due to growth triggered by the establishment of two military bases to support the war effort. In 1947, the Sacketts Harbor, a World War II Liberty Ship, was put into service to provide more power for the city. Though the Sacketts Harbor had broken up in a heavy storm near Adak, its diesel steam plant still functioned, so it was towed to Anchorage, where it provided more than half of the city's power for the next eight years.

GROWING SPURTS

Realizing that the need for electricity would only continue to grow, in 1950, the U.S. Congress authorized construction of a larger hydroelectric plant on the Eklutna River. When...

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