Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 3:17 PM on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Levine outlines some HEA accomplishments in his time on board



Another Homer Electric Association election season is upon us and I have thrown my hat in the ring again. While everyone probably does not agree with every decision I made during the last three years (I don't even agree with every decision made for that matter), I hope everyone does realize that I always kept the membership at the forefront of my thoughts and tried to do what was best for the members and the co-op as a whole.

Here is a brief recap of what has occurred since I first became a director of this co-op:

The general conversation at HEA has moved away from a coal plant in Healy and toward an under water ocean current plant near the East Forelands in Nikiski. This is still off in the future, but the sooner we can get away from using fossil fuels to produce energy, the sooner we will have stable rates and a cleaner environment.

The power contract with Chugach Electric will be ending about one and a half years from now and HEA will start producing our own power. As a part of this effort HEA is adding a steam turbine that uses the waste steam that comes off the existing gas turbine, providing 18 megawatts more power with no additional gas usage.

We also are adding a turbine in Soldotna and bought the Bernice Lake Power Plant from Chugach Electric to use as standby power when the Nikiski plant is not operating. The purchase of the Bernice Lake Power Plant was a significant cost savings over the original proposal of buying a second gas turbine for Soldotna.

A rate restructuring plan was adopted at the beginning of this year. There has been some controversy over the minimum energy charge portion of the plan, but in the end the restructuring means that all members are paying more fairly for the fixed costs of the cooperative, the classes of users have been simplified, members in Seldovia are no longer paying a higher residential rate than other members, and the small business class had a rate reduction which hopefully encourages more small business growth throughout our area.

The board elected to exclude net metering members from paying the minimum energy charge since they are providing energy to the cooperative and to encourage folks to provide small scale alternative home energy systems.

HEA now includes small alternative power systems in the HEA loan program so members can borrow money from HEA to install solar or wind systems. In the future I would like to see HEA put in a medium size wind turbine so members that do not have access to wind can be a part of net metering by purchasing shares in the turbine. This will have to go before the Regulatory Commission of Alaska in order to happen because it is a radically different approach then what RCA anticipated when they established the net metering regulations.

In an effort to provide for more open governance, the board has eliminated a lot of executive sessions and when they are needed they are much more specific. Also, the monthly meeting agendas and minutes can now be found on the HEA website, www.homerelectric.com.

I have not taken a position yet regarding the potential hydroelectric power plant at Grant Lake, preferring to wait and see the results of this summer's field studies. However, I do feel that it is important to start getting power from somewhere besides fossil fuel, and hydroelectric power is a proven method that is reliable and utilizes the rain and snow, which is something we have in abundance.

Our electric cooperative is one of the few entities that I am aware of where the customers are also the owners, and now is the time when you get to vote for who you want to have representing you. I hope that I have earned your trust and your vote by being as honest and open as possible when weighing the issues as they occur and doing what we both think is right for the co-op and for the world.

Jim Levine lives in Homer and is a project manager for a construction company.