Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Editorial: Shedding light on HEA elections

These are electric times. The Homer Electric Association Board of Directors has always served an important function on the central and southern Kenai Peninsula, but one that hasn’t always garnered much attention from HEA members. Come annual election time, picking names and returning ballots for some voters is fueled more by a desire to qualify for energy credits than it is a concern over the politics and policies of the co-op.

It’s not that who gets elected doesn’t matter, it’s just that voters haven’t had much incentive to take time out of their busy lives to familiarize themselves with the issues facing the HEA board and the views of those seeking seats on it.

Until now. This past year’s dramatic increase in electricity rates has had one positive side effect: It gets people’s attention.

And just in time. The board will soon face decisions of monumental and fundamental importance to how HEA operates in the future. Such basic questions as:

Where will HEA get power? Should it continue contracting for the majority of its electricity from natural gas? Is that even an option with reserves dwindling and prices climbing?

Should HEA invest in developing renewable energy sources? If so, which ones, where and to what scale?

What about coal? Do affordability and abundance factors outweigh environmental concerns? How long and to what level should HEA commit to the Healy coal plant?

What if Pebble Mine gets the go-ahead? Will HEA be involved in providing the massive amount of power the operation will require? If so, how?

Should HEA support joining forces with other Railbelt electric utilities for generation and transportation purposes? Should a single, “postage-stamp” rate be established for the entire Railbelt?

The answers to all these questions will have an impact on pocketbooks. So now’s the time to think about answers. Read up on the issues and candidates’ stances on them. Talk to current and hopeful board members. Visit with neighbors and friends about their priorities. And most importantly, don’t think casting a vote is the end of it. Several candidates stated they want to carry out the will of their constituents. So stay informed, involved and vocal. If board members don’t know what residents want, they can’t advocate it.

Pay attention now, or pay for it later.

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