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HEA ballots due soon

If you haven’t sent in your ballot for the Homer Electric Association Board of Directors, now is the time. HEA will announce the winners May 7.

Two candidates are running for a District 1 seat, covering Kenai, Nikiski and parts of Soldotna. Jim Duffield, of Kenai, comes from a financial background, having been an accountant and auditor. He is a shareholder and the managing member of JMJ Tax Relief in Kenai. Duffield says he would bring his financial background to serve on the board.

“The rates seem to have continually climbed steadily in the last few years,” Duffield said. “And I don’t feel like that’s really justified. And there’s been a number of good projects that they’ve gotten involved in that have paid off well for the company and for us as users, but there’s also some projects that have not worked out quite so well.”

Duffield says hydroelectric is a cost-effective source of power generation, and he likes the Bradley Lake hydroelectric dam across Kachemak Bay. He’s not a fan of wind power, for instance, the windmill installation at Fire Island.

One of HEA’s current strategic initiatives is to reduce the co-op’s reliance on natural gas for power generation. Duffield says instead of reduction, HEA should try to negotiate better contracts with producers.

“There is a lot of natural gas around here,” he said. “Some of the contracts that were put forth in prior years were not the best-negotiated prices. I think natural gas will probably always be a part of HEA’s strategy because it is here and, under the right circumstances, it is very affordable.”

Erik Hendrickson, of Kenai, is running against Duffield. He’s a cook at a senior center. He wants to see HEA move toward more renewable energy generation using existing infrastructure. For instance, adding pumped hydro storage to Bradley Lake and expanding on-bill financing to allow more people to install solar panels and heat pumps.

“I see renewable energy as the future, for sure,” Hendrickson said. “The issue is, how do we get there? And what role does HEA play in that? I feel like since HEA is in such a large amount of debt already, that large, capital projects are going to be tough to sell. Hence, the decentralized energy. Rather than having all the members pay for a giant solar farm, we can enable the HEA members to put solar on their roofs. It gives them a sort of vested interest in how HEA is doing.”

Hendrickson likes the potential of the Railbelt Reliability Council, moderating how the six Railbelt utilities work together. He thinks power storage and power sharing could help balance out costs.

“If we can get a partnership between all the utilities, that’s going to make sending our electricity to Fairbanks a lot easier,” Hendrickson said. “When they need electricity and we have it in surplus, why not send it? Well, the reason right now is because there’s tariffs on trying to send electricity up the line. Hammering out an agreement that’s equitable for everybody is very important.”

C.O. Rudstrom is running unopposed for a District 2 seat, covering Sterling, Soldotna and Kasilof. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and is the facilities and maintenance supervisor at Kenai Peninsula College.

He agrees that HEA should diversify its energy generation sources.

“And there’s a couple ways of doing it,” Rudstrom said. “Adding renewables — wind power and hydro are two obvious ones, but we need to make sure we’re making the right choice and we’re not adding something that’s going to ultimately cost us more money. That’s our bottom line, we have to be here for all the consumers and not just add renewables just because it’s the thing to do. For instance, wind power, in a lot of places down states, they’re finding out that wind turbines are a very high-maintenance item.”

Another challenge he sees in the future is billing members equitably, especially as the peninsula continues to draw seasonal residents.

“As we see more and more development on the peninsula and a lot of that development is seasonal homes, vacation homes and meters that only get served intermittently, our billing has to reflect that,” Rudstrom said. “We have to maintain all those lines and all the distribution to all those places even though they’re only using power on occasion, and that’s going to be a challenge going forward to figure out the right way to bill those customers.”

Three candidates are running for a District 3 seat, covering Kasilof south to Kachemak Bay. Troy Jones, of Homer, owns a construction company and used to work with HEA as a field supervisor. Pete Kinneen, of Anchor Point, is the director for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, and incumbent Jim Levine, of Homer, is a project manager with a construction company.

Another two updates from HEA: 

  • They’re warning that there’s a phone scam making the rounds. Callers are posing as HEA representatives and even have HEA show up on caller ID. The scammers are asking for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. HEA does not call you to seek this information. Call HEA to report fraudulent calls at (800) 478-8551.
  • And finally, HEA reminds hunters, hikers and other outdoors users of Kachemak Bay State Park that the Bradley Lake public floating dock and the road to the Bradley Lake hydroelectric dam are closed again this season. Work continues on the Battle Creek Diversion Project and no one is allowed in the area until construction is done, sometime this summer.
Jenny Neyman has been the general manager of KDLL since 2017. Before that she was a reporter and the Morning Edition host at KDLL.
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