Shultz Energy Fellow Studies Decarbonization Pathways for the Alaska Railbelt

Shultz Energy Fellow Studies Decarbonization Pathways for the Alaska Railbelt

Cameron Morelli, a master’s student from Stanford University, is spending her summer with ACEP as a Shultz Energy Fellow working on the Railbelt Decarbonization project.

Morelli’s project focuses on creating a production cost model of the Railbelt, Alaska’s largest regional grid spanning from Fairbanks to Homer. A production cost model optimizes the dispatch of generators in a power system in order to minimize the total cost of serving electricity demand. The model will then be adapted to analyze three decarbonization scenarios for the Railbelt.

“My project has been focused on creating a baseline model of the Railbelt that accurately represents how the grid is operated,” said Morelli, who studies energy markets and policy at Stanford. “Then we can use that model to analyze how the Railbelt can be decarbonized while maintaining reliable and affordable electricity.”

The Railbelt serves about 70% of Alaska’s population and has about 75% of Alaska’s electrical load, yet its renewable energy integration is understudied. Natural gas, coal and hydro generate most of the Railbelt’s electricity. Dramatically reducing the Railbelt’s carbon emissions will likely require a dramatic change. It is important to model and study how these changes will affect grid reliability and electricity rates.

This summer, Morelli has had the opportunity to learn more about energy economics and power systems modeling from her ACEP mentors Phylicia Cicilio, Jeremy VanderMeer and Steve Colt. She has particularly enjoyed learning about the history of the Railbelt and energy in Alaska, which is very different from California and the contiguous U.S.

“My graduate coursework at Stanford primarily focuses on energy in California and the West,” said Morelli. “It has been a great opportunity to learn about the Railbelt and energy in Alaska, which is very unique and understudied.”

For more information on this project, please contact Phylicia Cicilio at

The Stanford Shultz Energy Fellowship program is a partnership of Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Haas Center for Public Service, and Stanford in Government.


2022 Shultz Energy Fellow Cameron Morelli. Photo by Jeff Fisher.