Mail-in ballots for the upcoming Homer Electric Association board of directors annual election have started showing up in co-op member mailboxes around the area. On the ballot are candidates for one seat in each of the three HEA regions.
In District 1, the Kenai area, the lone candidate is incumbent Dan Chay. In District 3, the Lower Peninsula, a Seldovia woman, Erin McKittrick, is challenging the middle-age white male hegemony on the board, and faces fellow board new-comer Gregory Martin Jr. of Homer. The winner will replace board member Bill Fry.
For District 2, the Soldotna-Sterling area, incumbent Ed Oberts faces a challenge from Ed Schmitt, a retired Colorado surgeon who’s lived on the Kenai for a dozen-plus years. The pair were on last week’s Kenai Conversation, discussing the election and their candidacy. Here, we hear each introduce themselves, starting with Oberts.
(Oberts) “Part of the reason why dates back to those early homestead days when I can remember as a kid watching the evening news or the show right after the news on the TV and would see the TV go snowflakes, you know, all go out. And you could count the seconds, you had about three to five seconds to think, okay, where's the flashlight? You know, because we knew the power is going out. And it always did. And in Sterling, it was always a two-and-a-half-hour, a four-hour reset for the power to come back on, and we just grew up that way. You know, it wasn't a big thing. But it's it's one of the reasons why I chose to run then and chose to run again here now, is that reliability of power, how much it's changed over the years, and I've just got a fascination with energy too, so it's good fit for myself.”
(Schmitt) “As a little kid growing up, Alaska was always the promised land for me. And I couldn't wait to get here. But I decided that my surgery career and my ranching career took precedence. I bought the place that I live in in the late 80s. And never wanted to leave Alaska. Just love it up here. But anyhow, when I retired from surgery and the drought in Colorado, essentially ended the ranching, I'd always wanted to build my own house. So I came up and built the house that I now live in. I've had many interesting careers throughout my life and many interesting board experiences. And I'd like to be on the HEA board to introduce some new energy to the HEA board. Power is something that's always been very intriguing to me, especially on my ranch when I had none. And I just want to see what new ideas I could bring to the board.”
Homer Electric has relied heavily on hydro electric for generation, but other renewable resources are on the horizon. Here, Schmitt answers first.
(Schmitt) “I was just at Peggy Mullins’ solar rooftop tour last weekend. And that was fascinating to me because I hadn't realized how inexpensive the panels had gotten, and how efficient they are, and how quickly that will pay back the average homeowner if they put rooftop solar on their houses here in Alaska. It's based on our rates, which currently HEA has some of the highest rates in the rail belt. And because of that, roughly 23- 24-cents a kilowatt hour, it makes rooftop solar very, very, very efficient.”
(Oberts) “One of the real problems with wind and solar is it's not firm power. There’s, in the electrical industry, especially on the generation side, there's “firm” and “non-firm” power and there's also spin and they all kind of relate you know. Firm power is you turn on the switch and turn on the big electric motor and you got everything works. Non-firm powers, may or may not work, maybe the winds blowing and maybe the sun's (shining). And, and then there's another part of that is integration if you go with non-firm power, wind or solar, is You got to integrate it onto the grid.”
Ballots for the mail-in election must be received by 5 p.m. May 1. The annual meeting is the next day in Kenai Central High School. Registration for in-person voting begins at 4:30 p.m. with the business meeting beginning at 6.