YVEA forum sparks debate
Utility candidates disagree about rate structure, conflicts of interest
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.
Steamboat Springs — 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 http://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.”
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