Green energy advocates Susan Holland, right, and Megan Moore-Kemp think more can be done by the Yampa Valley Electric Association to increase the use of renewable energy sources.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Green energy advocates Susan Holland, right, and Megan Moore-Kemp think more can be done by the Yampa Valley Electric Association to increase the use of renewable energy sources.

Sustainability-minded candidates challenge YVEA board directors

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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 sent to association members in late May, so it is not necessary to attend the meeting to vote.

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.

To run for a seat, candidates must return a petition signed by at least 15 association members. The deadline to submit petitions is 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Source: YVEA

— Thinking the local electric utility is not committed enough to green business practices, a duo of Routt County women is vying for two of the three seats up for election this year on the Yampa Valley Electric Association Board of Directors.

Current YVEA officials say the women's claims are inaccurate and unfair, and they point to recent survey results showing customers are satisfied with the utility and do not wish to pay higher rates to support additional investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

Susan Holland and Megan Moore-Kemp are combining their campaigns and running on a platform promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"I want to see YVEA become more progressive about renewables and have more of a real plan about our future," said Holland, owner of solar electric design and installation company Emerald Mountain Energy. In her third year vying for a board spot, Holland will challenge attorney 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.

McGill said YVEA already is a leader among rural electric cooperatives in the state and questioned the feasibility of Holland's plans.

"We are one of the greenest co-ops in the state," McGill said. "We really do a great job considering our rates are some of the lowest around. : We're certainly committed to meeting or exceeding the level the law requires."

In its March newsletter, YVEA reports that it will exceed the state renewable energy standard requiring it to purchase 6.4 million kilowatt-hours of green energy for 2008. YVEA is on track to purchase more than 55 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy, according to the newsletter. That figure is nearly nine times the state requirement.

"These numbers should make YVEA the second-highest provider of renewable energy among the 22 electric cooperatives in the state, based upon percentage of energy sales," YVEA General Manager Larry Covillo wrote.

McGill also noted that YVEA has a long-term contract with Xcel Energy to supply nearly all of its electricity and that the contract does not expire for about a decade.

"We're not in the business of providing power. We're like a retailer," McGill said. "The idea that we can change our portfolio is erroneous. : That's not our business. That's a totally different business. : I think it's naÃive to think we can change a lot of our way of doing business."

Power to the people

But Holland said the time to begin rethinking the Xcel contract is now, especially if a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system is implemented that will increase the cost of traditional energy sources. Holland also downplayed the significance of YVEA exceeding the renewable energy standard.

"I would like to see them do more. That's an easy standard to meet," she said. "I think they should set a 20 percent goal for renewables."

Moore-Kemp, who teaches a green building class at Colorado Mountain College and owns a sustainability-focused construction company with her husband, will challenge Charles Perry for the District 9 seat representing South Routt County. Moore-Kemp's focus is energy efficiency.

"I worked in Oregon with utilities doing conservation programs for homeowners," she said. "I'd really like a progressive conservation program (at YVEA). I envision our utility as kind of a base camp for efficiency programs."

Specifically, Moore-Kemp said YVEA should provide rebates and other financial incentives to customers who improve their homes to make them more energy-efficient. Moore-Kemp said such programs make good financial sense for all involved because consumers save money on electricity and the utility saves money by delaying expansion.

"It's kind of a no-brainer," she said. "Investing in energy efficiency programs (is) known to be the most economical and beneficial way to add generation to our grid."

Perry did not return a phone message left at his home last week. Covillo noted the results of a customer survey released in April, showing that more than 90 percent of YVEA customers do not support paying higher rates to benefit a rebate program for either energy efficiency or renewable energy projects.

"I think that's a valid concern of my customers," Covillo said. "I think the board and the staff of YVEA are going to respond to what the citizens want."

McGill agreed.

"Our members want reliable, safe, low-cost electricity, and that's what we've been able to provide," he said. "If they want expensive power provided another way, that's what we'll give them."

YVEA does offer free energy audits and free compact fluorescent light bulbs to its customers to promote energy efficiency.

"We encourage efficiency as much as we can. We think it's good for the consumer and good for the utility," McGill said. "But we also have to keep in mind that we don't want any of our customers subsidizing other customers."

In the case of rebates for solar projects, McGill said such a program would result in poorer customers subsidizing richer ones who can afford to install such a system.

Comments

sickofitall 5 years, 4 months ago

I could stand to see Scott McGill go....please!!

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 4 months ago

The Mickey Mouse, do good, proposals presented here address the need to use the solar, wind, and conservation venues as the answer to our future needs. Every little bit helps, but this category only produces 1.5% of our needs today. A fivefold increase is 7,5%, hardly enough to bet the farm on. O cut the funding to Yucca Mountain when he got the reins, meaning no nuclear. Nuclear is the overwhelming favorite to solve the carbon free problem. The same group of unemployed "cause seekers" shut this industry down decades ago and will not man up and admit the mistake. If the global warming politicos facts are correct we are in real trouble today, but the nuclear waste problem may have a thousand year grace period. The enviros are usually not too handy with math but this isn't rocket science. My suggestion to the challengers is to look at the whole picture and then explain it to the annointed one. This whole situation easily converts to one excelent political tool, and O has a lot of backers to satisfy.

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trump_suit 5 years, 4 months ago

I for one fully support Susan and Megan in their efforts. Fred may be correct about the size and scope of the problem, but we have to start sometime and somewhere. We must begin developing and installing renewable energy sources to even make a dent in the problem.

Nuclear is clearly an option that needs to be utilized also, but without starting the renewable process, the end will never be in sight. There are no easy answers to this global problem, but refusing to believe in the possibility of renewable energy will surely doom us to failure and increase our dependancy on foreign sources.

As a wise man once said :

"The longest journey always starts with a single step" That first step in Routt County is long overdue.

Just one thought for the record. Scott McGill is flat wrong. The economics of the problem demand that the electric utilites stop investing in large scale coal/nuclear projects and redirect that money towards individual renewable efforts. This method has a proven record of success in those countries that have tried it.

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tmccarty 5 years, 4 months ago

While renewable energy sounds like a cure all to some it has many problems and will likely never live up to the expectations some would like you to believe. On a individual level these types of energy sources work reasonably well at present and some day will be a cost effective option to the individual building or home owner. On a large scale they have many problems to overcome to be a viable replacement for our current system of power generation. One of biggest problems would appear to be power storage when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow. In the end you will still need large power plants to pick up the load. Large coal fired plants do not increase our dependance on foreign sources as there is enough coal in the US and Canada to last for many generations with more coal fields being discovered. As for the candidates interviewed in the article I see conflicts of interest in asking me as a YVEA customer to pay higher rates so that subsidizes can be given to people that are potential customers of the candidates business. But I guess that is politics as usual these days.

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trump_suit 5 years, 4 months ago

All forms of energy matter. If we spend more on renewable resources, we will need fewer of the coal burning power plants. You are absolutely correct that coal is necessary for the forseeable future. What is missing is the total cost of utilizing that resource. Our environment is subsidizing our use of coal and we will all pay a price for that. The only real question is:

Which price is larger?

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Andy Kennedy 5 years, 4 months ago

To comment on the subject of the survey, which YVEA is using to claim that customers are indeed happy... what the survey proves is that no one under 50 reads anything that YVEA sends them or votes at the annual meeting... and that barely any of their members even know about their existing green programs, which are indeed factually fewer than the GEO recommends.

I'm personally tired of hearing about "Clean Coal" and want our community to be brought up to speed with the rest of Colorado on wind and solar credits for home owners.

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ybul 5 years, 4 months ago

Solar credits are not that cost effective. What should be invested in is geothermal heating systems. They are 300-400% efficient where as electricity is 100% and propane/natural gas is 80-90%. The payback time frame is 3-10 years without subsidy in new construction, depending upon the heat source.

The YVEA then could buy large blocks of power throughout the year, sell off the summer power as it is more expensive and keep the winter power. Helping to keep our rates even lower, maybe offsetting some of the costs in subsidizing the installation of geothermal heating/cooling systems.

Wind/Solar are sporadic in production and there needs to be a smarter grid which has a way to store excess production and then return it to the grid when needed, ie battery backup. Without the investments in assisting the grid to handle the variability of wind and solar, they will only wreak havoc on our grid.

With geothermal systems installed in houses for heat and hot water, the amount of natural gas saved could be used to supply a natural gas plant which is easier to power up or down to meet power demands than a coal plant.

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teresawright 5 years, 4 months ago

Real change is needed to break our oil and coal fossil fuel habit and we all know no single technology can solve all of our environmental challenges. However, a partnership of many good ideas will place us in good stead. As I understand it, a 2005 comparison of energy prices calculated for new plants coming on line in 2013 indicate coal, natural gas, wind and nuclear cost between 5 and 7 cents per kilowatt hour while solar costs about 22 cents. Yet we all know the cost of solar and other renewable forms of energy will fall as technology improves. Even though solar power currently provides less than one percent of the world's energy, more and more companies are drawn to solar-thermal plants. "The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope," so says Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Small solutions, like CFLs, can and do have a big payoffs. I support Holland and Moore-Kemp's candidacy. Good luck to both of them and I applaud them for caring about our community!

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Andy Kennedy 5 years, 4 months ago

Ybul, geothermal is a great idea, if we have enough of it, which I've heard we don't... and although you're right that solar isn't as economical as wind, they offer MORE credits for it accordingly, or so I understand, and that YVEA currently doesn't match the GEOs offering of grant money (which consumers do have to apply for) to pay for a solar system (or wind), which is what I'd like to see- in other regions, if you purchase a $15,000 system, you get about $3k back from the feds and can get up to $8k from Xcel if you're a customer of theirs, but nothing from YVEA. SO everyone building solar in Steamboat from now on gets nada... no help... kinda lame.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 4 months ago

We have many ideas and inventions to solve our energy problem today. We also have many "gaming" the system to benefit from the politically popular green revolution. Those in the right place such as Al Gore, who has increased his fortunes fifty fold, since he left office are reaping nice rewards. Subsidizing is a decades old political tool that has cost us bilions if not trillions, dictated by the need to do good or just "politics" It assures political engineers and their supporters that we are trying to do the right thing. We have arrived at a point where we are "broke" and may never be able to repay for our excesses. Today we describe more spending as investing. In our capitalist system we have available the ultimate "subsidy". Anyone coming up with an invention or idea can reap a fortune, the only catch is, that it must work. Many of our finest minds have been working in the energy area to produce our present situation. We don't need to subsidize novices or the politically connected to "game" the system. I do not want part of my electrical bill used to patronize ideas that have already been considered and are not viable in todays marketplace.Our society needs "bang for the buck", were broke. The same souls that killed nuclear power are now masqerading as leaders to wein us off carbon. Frivolous spending such as this is a threat to our existence as a nation. In my life I have observed the money is no object theory, and it doesn't work. Before trying to do good I would suggest that these women get all sides of the argument.

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