YVEA candidates debate tonight

Campaigns raise issues of renewable energy, consumer costs

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If you go

What: Yampa Valley Electric Association candidates' forum

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: YVEA community room, 32 10th St.

Call: Catherine Carson at 870-2896 for more information

YVEA election process

Nine people constitute the Yampa Valley Electric Association Board of Directors, with three seats up for election each year at the utility's annual meeting. This year's annual meeting is June 20 in Hayden. Mail-in ballots are being sent to association members this week, so it is not necessary to attend the meeting to vote. Ballots must be signed and returned by the association member named on the account, or they will be invalidated. Ballots are due by 5 p.m. June 19 at the YVEA office on 10th Street in Steamboat Springs.

The seats up for election this year are in District 1, which covers the area served in Wyoming and parts of northern Moffat and Routt counties, District 8 in Steamboat Springs and District 9 in South Routt.

Source: YVEA

Candidates for Yampa Valley Electric Association's Board of Directors will debate their very different visions for the cooperative at a forum today.

This year's board election is receiving an unusually high level of interest, as two Routt County women campaigning on a platform of energy efficiency and renewable energy are challenging incumbents for two of three open seats. The incumbent board members say allegations that YVEA is not green are inaccurate and unfair, and say that some of the challengers' ideas would lead to more expensive rates.

The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley is sponsoring the forum, the first of its kind.

"Hopefully it will be the first of many," alliance member Catherine Carson said. "One of our goals at the Community Alliance is to promote community involvement."

Carson said that's something that has been lacking in YVEA board elections, which historically have very low turnout among association members.

Megan Moore-Kemp is challenging incumbent Charles Perry for the District 9 seat representing South Routt County. Moore-Kemp's focus is energy efficiency. Perry has suggested that embracing Moore-Kemp's vision would require abandoning economic stability.

"To our increasing numbers of consumers affected by fixed incomes and disappearing 401(k)s, YVEA has provided stable rates for family budgets and business forecasts," Perry wrote.

The results of a YVEA customer survey released in April showed that more than 90 percent of YVEA customers do not support paying higher rates to benefit a rebate program for energy efficiency or renewable energy projects. The survey also revealed high levels of customer satisfaction.

Moore-Kemp, however, thinks increasing energy efficiency programs would be financially beneficial to YVEA and its customers.

"Let's take a moment to think about what energy efficiency achieves on the most basic level: a lower energy bill," Moore-Kemp wrote. "Why wouldn't we want to save our membership money on their bills?"

Susan Holland is challenging Scott McGill in the race for the District 8 seat representing Steamboat Springs.

Among her ideas, Holland said, she would like to see YVEA provide rebates for solar installation projects and purchase more electricity from small, local renewable energy projects that she thinks are feasible in the Yampa Valley. With assurances that YVEA would buy their electricity, Holland said private individuals could develop local power projects such as micro-hydro generation on streams, a methane gas project at the Milner Landfill or biomass electric systems powered by beetle-killed trees.

"I see a day when : we could power our town ourselves," Holland said last month.

McGill has questioned the feasibility of such ambitions and noted that YVEA already exceeds a state mandate for the amount of electricity it must purchase from renewable sources.

"YVEA is a leader in renewable energy," he wrote, "not a laggard."

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