YVEA candidates disagree on utility's rate structure

Forum sparks debate about conflicts of interest

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YVEA voting 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.

YVEA voting tips

- Vote for candidates in all districts.

- Place signed ballot in YVEA's ballot envelope.

- The envelope must be signed by the person whose name is on the label (if two names are on the label, one of the named signatures is required).

- Show your title if you are voting for a business or organization.

- Lost ballots may be replaced by contacting YVEA at 871-2231.

— Stark differences about Yampa Valley Electric Association's roles and rate structure emerged during a Wednesday night forum featuring candidates for the utility's board of directors.

The discussion boiled down to differences about whether YVEA's primary concern should be to achieve the lowest rates possible and whether it should engage in energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives that could cost money and move the electric cooperative away from its traditional modus operandi.

Susan Holland and Megan Moore-Kemp are pushing for a new direction for YVEA. They are challenging Scott McGill for YVEA's District 8 seat representing Steamboat Springs and Charles Perry for a District 9 representing South Routt, respectively. The District 1 seat, which covers the area served in Wyoming and parts of northern Routt and Moffat counties, is uncontested.

Holland and Moore-Kemp have combined their campaigns and are focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Holland said the lowest rates possible should not be YVEA's top concern. Holland said that although rates are low now, factors such as fossil fuel depletion could lead to big increases in the future - a risk YVEA could protect itself against by investing in renewables.

"I think it's really essential that we start thinking long-term," Holland said. "I think we're artificially holding rates low at this time. : My hope is that we get creative about this because we're going to see higher rates no matter what."

Noting that he has solar panels on his home, McGill said no current board members are opposed to renewable energy.

"It may be a question of how fast we move and who pays for what," he said.

McGill said YVEA traditionally has bought electricity from suppliers - currently Xcel Energy - and then sold it to association members. He said Holland's ideas would require a major shift in operations that he doesn't think is appropriate.

"We need to be proceeding on all that stuff as a nation," McGill said. "I don't think, as a cooperative, we should. We aren't in the generation business."

McGill also accused Holland, owner of solar electric design and installation company Emerald Mountain Energy, of a conflict of interest because she is promoting rebates for customers who install solar systems. Holland said she doesn't think she has a conflict of interest and that her reasons for running for the board go beyond her professional interest and her interest in representing her customers.

YVEA General Manager Larry Covillo said he doesn't think Holland has a conflict of interest.

"Yes, she sells solar systems," he said. "But does she sell them to the association? No. That's the distinction."

The issue of solar rebates, however, would present a problem, Covillo said.

"If the board did that, she would have to step down," Covillo.

Moore-Kemp acknowledged that expanding YVEA's energy efficiency programs would cost money, but she argued that it was a worthy investment because it would help customers reduce their rates and help delay capital expansions.

"A little can really go a long way," Moore-Kemp said. "Now is the time to invest strategically in the future of this co-op."

Moore-Kemp noted that Holy Cross Energy, which provides electricity in the Aspen and Vail areas, has only slightly higher rates while offering extensive energy efficiency programs. Among its programs, Holy Cross Energy generates electricity from a wind farm in eastern Colorado and offers customers rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances.

McGill likened Holland's and Moore-Kemp's ideas to "social engineering."

"I think it's a question of freedom of choice and money," he said. "The question is, do you want to spend other people's money? I guess I feel people should pay their own money and get their own benefit rather than I pay for you to do it."

McGill also differed with Holland on the issue of YVEA's rate structure. Holland said she would be in favor of a "creative rate design" such as charging people more for electricity during peak hours.

"We can give them a choice," Holland said. "They don't have to use off-peak power, but if they do, they get cheaper power."

McGill said he favored one standard rate for each kilowatt-hour, no matter how much electricity a customer uses.

"I don't think (our job) is to do social engineering and telling people, 'Oh, you shouldn't be running your dishwasher this time of day,'" McGill said. "Frankly, if you want to burn your lights all night, that's your decision."

Perry was ill and unable to attend Wednesday's forum. YVEA spokesman Jim Chappell read on Perry's behalf a letter Perry wrote that was published in the Steamboat Pilot & Today (read the letter at www.steamboatpilot.com).

"Among those facilitators/ranchers/farmers who circulated on horseback through our service area and accepted, cajoled, loaned or took in trade a value equal to the $5 (gold) original membership certificates was my grandfather," Perry wrote. "Maybe I am part of the 'old boys club.' Those 'old boys' gave us a power supply contract with the contractual flexibility to meet the unknown future economic and political conditions of today."

Comments

Harvey Lyon 5 years, 4 months ago

YVEA is doing a great job. Absolutely no reason to mess with perfection!

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housepoor 5 years, 4 months ago

The incumbents are still living in the 50's, com'on it's time for a little forward thinking

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trump_suit 5 years, 4 months ago

Will cheap electricity be worth it when the snow doesn't fall next year? What about when Miami or New York is underwater? Will it be time then?

These kinds of fundamental changes to our power systems will take decades to come to fruition. We all know that fossil fuels will eventually run out and it is time to begin the next phase. We have time if the process is started now, but waiting another 50 years is foolish.

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Harvey Lyon 5 years, 4 months ago

We have enough coal to last for a really really really long time. Need to make it cleaner for sure, and we should be focused more on that than solar or wind. Electric cars, once battery design develops will help but those cars will still require the same amount of energy to get around town or over the hill be it in the form of a kilowatt-hour or a BTU. Our power grid is not sufficient to deliver that level of power to all the vehicle charging stations. Any second year engineering student can tell you that solar and wind simply don't offer the power density necessary for a vibrant society. And they have a problem when the wind doesn't blow of its dark and/or cloudy. Nuclear, clean coal, hydro-electric, perhaps geo-thermal and a vastly more robust electrical distribution system is the relatively near-term answer for the most part. Wind turbines and solar is only a drop in the power-needs bucket.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 4 months ago

The challengers are into social engineering, and making our power costs go up, to subsidize systems that are mostly political experiments. Today in the valley twenty percent of the customers are delinquent and the future is bleak at best. Social engineering has the world economy on life support now, and more is only knee jerk emotionalism. The "investment" decoy is politically correct today but rhetoric does'nt taste very good. The incumbents will get my support, but this good old boy's club is going to be faced with pressure to reform an organization that has needed and resisted reform for decades. This organization is an embarrassment to our valley, and time has come to call a halt to this cancer in our midst. Possibly management consultants could revamp this orginization, but I think that a house cleaning may be in order.

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ybul 5 years, 4 months ago

Maybe a little forward thinking would help. Offer incentives to heat homes with geothermal systems that need electricity to run them. Buy power in blocks for the entire year and then sell off the summer kilowatt hours that are not needed to cool housing in the area.

We have an opposite electricity demand from the norm and potentially could have even lower rates, if the system were worked. Maybe some of those lower rates could be directed to making energy efficiency improvements for the poor (so they do not get behind), build wind turbines which provide more power in the winter than summer, which correlates to the regions demand curve and could facilitate any even greater winter summer power imbalance to be sold to those in Phoenix that need electricity for AC.

As far as electric vehicles posing a stress on the power grid. Ever thought that those cars might charge at night primarily when the grid is underutilized?

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