Speaker to outline YVEA's renewable, efficiency options


If you go

What: Brown bag lunch with presentation by Matt Futch, utilities program senior associate at the Colorado Governor's Energy Office

When: noon Thursday

Where: Colorado Mountain College, Bogue Hall, Room 300

Call: Noreen Moore of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council at 870-4461 for more information

— Although somewhat constricted in their options, rural electric cooperatives such as the Yampa Valley Electric Association can play a role in building a new energy economy.

That's the message Matt Futch hopes to deliver Thursday in the first presentation sponsored by a group of local residents working with YVEA on renewable energy and energy efficiency matters. Futch is the utilities program senior associate at the Colorado Governor's Energy Office. Rather than being political in pushing Gov. Bill Ritter's new energy economy agenda, Futch said his presentation is "just an opportunity for me to talk about what other rural utilities are doing."

"One of my job descriptions is to go out and align interests and opportunities," he said. "There's just some creative things that some of the rural cooperatives are doing on that side of the Continental Divide. : People are real excited about green energy and want things to move fast."

Futch also will go over the current energy policies being promoted by the GEO and grant opportunities offered by the office. At the end of his presentation, Futch hopes to lead a conversation on the strategies YVEA and its customers are willing to consider to bridge conventional and new energy technologies.

That can be a struggle for rural electric associations whose mission to provide low-cost, reliable power doesn't always align with renewable energy efforts. They also operate under long-term contracts of 20 to 30 years with their current electricity providers, Futch said.

"It's definitely a very interesting and kind of complex situation," said Noreen Moore, a member of the ad hoc group sponsoring the presentation. "The question is, who pays for this stuff?"

Because of these restraints, Futch said most cooperatives have focused on energy efficiency more than renewable energy. YVEA also has taken this approach by providing compact fluorescent light bulbs, which last 13 times longer than incandescent bulbs, to its customers.

In his presentation, Futch is expected to cite results of 2008 survey conducted by the San Miguel Power Association that suggests customers may be willing to pay higher costs for other efforts.

According to the survey, three-fourths of SMPA's members said the utility should go beyond the state renewable energy mandate, and about half said they would pay up to $15 more a month for the utility to invest in local renewable energy projects.

Some renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives undertaken by other Colorado rural electric associations include:

- The Delta Montrose Electric Association offers a solar rebate program and online home energy audits

- The San Miguel Power Association allows members to offset their energy consumption by purchasing renewable energy credits.

- Holy Cross Energy generates electricity from a wind farm in eastern Colorado and offers customers rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com


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