Cicilio and Colt Present at Stanford Smart Grid Seminar Series 

Cicilio and Colt Present at Stanford Smart Grid Seminar Series 

ACEP research assistant professor Phylicia Cicilio and research professor Steve Colt gave a lecture on the “Evolution and challenges of Alaska’s ‘Railbelt’ electric system” for Stanford's Smart Grid Seminar Series last week. 

Cicilio and Colt talked about the history of how electricity came to Alaska through a network of isolated cooperatives that then expanded to form a weekly connected system of large (100-200 megawatt) microgrids. These microgrids, operated by four separate co-ops, serve a combined average load of only 500 MW. 

More recently, Cicilio and Colt said, attempts to create an independent system operator failed. However, new legislation now requires the Railbelt utilities to work together toward more reliable and efficient operations. 

Alaska lacks a statewide climate policy, but that hasn’t stopped some utility co-op boards from initiating carbon reduction efforts of their own. There is no doubt that the further deployment of variable renewables and beneficial electrification will be challenging, given the small size of the grid and the weak connections — both physical and institutional — among its load centers.

To learn more, please contact Phylicia Cicilio at pcicilio@alaska.eduor Steve Colt at


Railbelt transmission system generation power capacity and development timeline from 1952 to 2019. Graphic courtesy of Phylicia Cicilio.