I am very pleased with all the press about the upcoming Yampa Valley Electric Association Board of Directors election. It is for good reason our citizenry be involved: as a co-op, the voting members are the backbone of the organization. Unfortunately, our co-op has a turnout of only 9 percent come election time with many members not realizing they can vote. Look for the ballot inside YVEA's annual report in your mailbox. Remember to sign with the bill holder's name. Each year, 200 ballots are discarded because of mistakes. Also, the public is welcome to attend a candidates forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the YVEA community room.
One of the issues voters will determine hinges on economics. My opponent, Charles Perry, assumes voters will "choose between economic stability or embrace change." I charge that in this election, embracing change will lead directly to economic stability. As a case in point, I will use YVEA's current Energy Efficiency Programs. As it stands, they offer one free compact florescent light bulb per home per year and walk-through energy audits. Compare this to other Colorado co-ops that offer rebates for upgrading appliances to Energy Star, solar water heater incentives and weatherization assistance. YVEA currently has zero dollars budgeted in 2009 for Energy Efficiency rebates. Let's take a moment to think about what energy efficiency achieves on the most basic level: a lower energy bill. Why wouldn't we want to save our membership money on their bills?
Let's consult the survey recently conducted by YVEA. Only 2 percent of its membership was asked to participate. Of those, 56 percent were not even aware of YVEA's Energy Efficiency program of one florescent light bulb per home, and 64 percent say they have no plans to implement any Energy Efficiency measures next year.
This lack of knowledge and desire to save oneself money on their own bill could be for one of two reasons: 1. Members are not sufficiently aware of Energy Efficiency opportunities, or 2. Because few programs exist from their co-op, members do not have the tools to implement such measures on their own. (If you'd like to see the survey for yourself, go to www.yvea.com and click the link to the survey.)
I believe our utility should serve as a "base camp" for all the programs happening in the Energy Efficiency world. Our members should be able to go to one place to find what is available to them in the way of incentives, services and contractors. If there is a great state program - such as Insulate Colorado - YVEA should act to hook up their clients with the appropriate avenues, rather than just let them fend for themselves. Furthermore, YVEA should act to "plug the holes." Maybe the state is offering great insulation incentives, but nothing for switching over to all florescent bulbs. So, YVEA should pick up the ball and offer something there.
We are faced with a significant challenge: updating an aging housing stock, reducing electricity demand and limiting CO2. Our utility should take a leadership role in this by helping its members in this task.
We owe a great debt to all the men and women who helped bring and sustain electricity to Northwest Colorado. I would liken those pioneers stringing the first lines and drumming up the first membership to the current challengers running for the YVEA board - myself and Susan Holland - understanding that change is on the horizon, and our co-op needs to be prepared, informed and equipped to face it head on.
Candidate, YVEA Board of Directors