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.
Steamboat Springs 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."
"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.