Homer Electric Association’s directors have abandoned the co-op’s goal of becoming 50% renewable by 2025. At their Dec. 12 meeting, board members voted 6-3 to rescind the renewable goal and subsequently approved a new policy for HEA to “to encourage future development of Cook Inlet gas resources wherever feasible,” with efforts that “will include promoting stable State and Federal leasing and tax policies.”
The directors who voted to spend dollars from your electric bill on lobbying for oil and gas leasing and tax breaks are Wayne Ogle, Robert Wall, Mike Chenault, Jim Duffield, Dan Green, and Dan Furlong. Wall is a climate change denier who previously told the HEA board that “CO2 is the gas of life — we don’t need to worry about it.” He and Chenault are up for re-election in this spring’s HEA board race.
HEA directors Jim Levine, Erin McKittrick, and Louie Flora (also up for re-election) voted against repealing the renewable goal and against the new “energy security and diversification” policy.
Please feel free to reach out to HEA’s directors at their co-op email addresses listed here.
HEA is at a critical moment of its history. It relies on Cook Inlet natural gas for all but roughly 14% of its energy. The Bradley Lake hydroelectric plant south of Kachemak Bay is its only significant renewable source. Its contract with Hilcorp, the only Cook Inlet driller with enough production to fill utility gas supply contracts, expires in March. Though HEA has reached a soft agreement to buy short-term gas from ENSTAR, that agreement hasn’t been signed or approved by state regulators. If a price has been agreed on, it hasn’t become public. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has forecasted that gas prices needed for new supply could double by the end of the decade.
HEA has the power to choose what energy systems it invests in. But it has virtually no influence over how many drillers operate in Cook Inlet or what prices they offer. By abandoning a measurable commitment to developing other power sources, HEA has taken its hands off the steering wheel. The only commitment other than gas lobbying in the new policy is for HEA to “diversify its generation portfolio by incorporating and developing energy sources.” But a “diversification policy” that removes measurable action to reduce the co-op’s exposure to Cook Inlet gas prices does not serve its members or communities.
As is usual for HEA board meetings, the public’s first opportunity to learn about this drastic change happened the Monday before the Tuesday noon meeting, when the agenda was posted on HEA’s website. Because the agenda didn’t include the actual text of the meeting materials, members couldn’t know what the listed “energy security and diversification policy” contained. Inletkeeper requested the updated policy Monday morning, and we received it a half-hour before the Tuesday meeting where HEA members would have their one chance to comment on it before the vote.
Director Dan Furlong, like others who voted to rescind the renewable goal, said HEA is continuing to evaluate renewable energy even without a specific policy saying so. The commitment, he said, is in another document HEA members can’t read, the strategic plan.
“If people would study the mission statement and our strategic plan, I think they would be comfortable with what this board is up to,” Furlong said. “We all want diversification and reliable, economic energy for our members, whether it’s a solar panel or whatever.”
The board considered the strategic plan, a confidential document, in executive session at the same Dec. 12 meeting and did not hold a vote on it. Members have no way of knowing whether the plan contains the specific, measurable steps toward renewables that HEA needs. Those who recognize that HEA has no hope of constraining energy prices without urgent movement away from gas reliance should want HEA to openly commit and stand by this goal.
HEA has had some form of renewable policy since 2008. The 50% by 2025 goal was set in January 2021, with the target date chosen to align with a 2008 statewide renewable goal declared by then-Governor Sarah Palin. Six of the nine members of the board that set this goal have since been replaced.
Of the current directors who favored ending the 2025 goal, most cited its unrealistic timeline. But when director Jim Levine moved to add a goal of being 50% renewable by 2030 to the new policy, the only approving vote from those who voted against the 2025 goal came from Mike Chenault, and the motion failed. The majority of HEA’s board favors no public commitment to diversification at all, but rather a policy that says “diversification” in its name and commits to nothing except gas lobbying.
In addition to writing to HEA’s directors, you can also sign an open letter to the board drafted by a new chapter of Kenai Change, the Sisterhood for Sustainable Futures. They’re sending a message to the HEA board to advocate for developing renewables. Find their letter here and consider adding your name. As a community, we must push HEA to invest in renewable energy options. Kenai Peninsula owner-members need to tell HEA board members that we want an affordable long-term solution to our energy problem and hold them accountable to pursue sensible solutions.
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