Yampa Valley electric co-op sees same renewable versus conventional power struggle

Yet one more rural electric association (REA) is seeing the same sort of board election upheaval going on at REAs across the state, where renewable energy advocates are battling status-quo incumbents bent on keeping electric rates low through conventional energy loads.

In a debate in Steamboat Springs Wednesday, two like-minded women running for the Yampa Valley Electric Association board argued reliance on traditional coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants will eventually lead to rate increases anyway, and that the co-op needs to hedge against those spikes through renewable sources.

According to the Steamboat Pilot and Today newspaper, Susan Holland and Megan Moore-Kemp are challenging incumbents Scott McGill and Charles Perry for seats on the board of a co-op that serves the northern Colorado counties of Routt and Moffat as well as parts of southern Wyoming.

“I think it’s really essential that we start thinking long-term,” said Holland, owner of the solar electric design and installation company Emerald Mountain Energy. “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.”

McGill, who, according to the paper, has solar panels on his own home, said Holland has a conflict of interest because of her solar company and the fact she’s advocating for solar-installation credits and energy efficient appliance rebates. He told the audience no one on the current board is opposed to renewable energy: “It may be a question of how fast we move and who pays for what.”

Similar debates have been going on at REAs around Colorado, including a contentious election for the board of the state’s largest co-op, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) on the Front Range, and Holy Cross Energy in the Vail and Aspen area.

Yampa Valley, along with the IREA, Holy Cross and Grand Valley Rural Power Lines out of Grand Junction, is among the state’s four co-ops that aren’t members of Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which is the subject of possible increased state scrutiny and oversight through the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Yampa Valley and the other three co-ops get the majority of their power from Xcel Energy, which is subject to a 20-percent renewable standard by 2020. Tri-State and the rest of the state’s co-ops are only subject to a 10 percent renewable requirement by 2020.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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