HEA Members Watching and Waiting for Renewables: Annual Meeting Report Out
Based on the lack of progress since Janorschke’s nearly identical presentation about renewables two years ago, the Board’s rescinding of the renewable energy goal policy, and lack of movement with wind study funding HEA received two years ago, HEA has not demonstrated follow-through.
splash graphic

Homer Electric Association’s Board of Directors election wrapped up on May 2nd at the Annual Meeting of the Members. The Board remains unchanged as all three incumbents were reelected. The pro-renewable minority retains three seats, with the other six directors ranging from renewable skeptics to unyielding opponents. Inletkeeper endorsed successful incumbent Louie Flora in District 3 (Lower Peninsula) and unsuccessful challenger Crystal Schwartz McKenney in District 2 (Soldotna, Sterling). 

While we celebrate Louie’s win and District 3’s pro-renewable consistency, we have seen the margins shrink over each recent election cycle and have heard anti-renewable rhetoric sway voters. Lower Peninsula voters must stay vigilant in our fight for a local, affordable, clean energy future. 

District 2 election results show that even against a moderate pro-renewable candidate, disinformation spread by anti-renewable candidates and their supporters can drastically affect the direction of these elections. This political polarization of the non-partisan HEA election demonstrates the overall climate regarding renewable energy in the Central Kenai Peninsula. 

Together, we can break the status quo in future elections. We can talk to our friends, families, and neighbors about voting and combat disinformation that skews wins for anti-renewable energy candidates. Our voice matters. If you know a HEA member who’s never voted, encourage them when the 2025 ballots become available. 

During the HEA’s Annual Members Meeting, General Manager Brad Janorschke spoke about the gas crisis, a one-year quick-fix gas contract with ENSTAR, renewable development, and a strategic plan that supposedly outlines a path for rate stability and reliability. Here’s what we heard and our take on it.

When Hilcorp announced in 2022 that they wouldn’t sign future contracts with electric utilities, HEA’s was the first to expire – it ended this March. In the two years since the announcement, Janorschke worked for our current one-year gas purchase contract with ENSTAR, bumping prices from $7.69/thousand cubic feet to $8.65/thousand cubic feet. This is a slight increase relative to what’s on the horizon if we must import gas before the associated infrastructure is in place. The fall-back plan of barging natural gas in connex-sized LNG tanks is expected to cost  $25/thousand cubic feet. Janorschke doesn’t hide that this is the kind of increase we are looking at if we do nothing, but what is HEA doing to avoid this scenario?

Janorschke emphasized that reducing our gas demand is critical to rate stability, highlighting ongoing state plans to increase the capacity of Bradley Lake hydro through the Dixon Diversion, geothermal studies at Mount Augustine, new funding for the long-proposed Landfill Gas project, and HEA wind studies. Details of the timeline or feasibility of these projects were not provided during the presentation.

During the member comments portion of the meeting, members praised HEA for acknowledging that renewables are an important part of our energy future but asked how the Board is being proactive in achieving this energy future. Like these informed members, Inletkeeper has doubts about whether HEA’s actions align with their words. 

Recent decisions and lack of progress signify that HEA is not pursuing renewables proactively. Over the last year, the Board voted to cancel the renewable goal and replace it with a diversification policy that omits renewables and focuses on incentivizing gas production, although HEA has little agency to do so. HEA has had funding for two years to deploy wind sensors at four onshore sites. As of the member’s meeting, none of those sensors have been implemented, though one offshore wind sensor was deployed on a Hilcorp platform on April 10th. Janorschke gave a similar presentation about renewable energy development at the Annual Meeting two years prior, and since then, no projects have been put to the Board for a vote, much less come online. 

Janorschke’s response to the question was that the Board is as active as he’s ever been on renewables, and that is evident in the new strategic plan. 

The plan available to the public, however, does not indicate what actions are being taken or will be taken. While it does outline renewable energy sources HEA will pursue, the when, where, who, and how are missing.

When members comment or ask for more information, his and the Board’s ultimate answer is, “We are working on it, trust us.” But trust is earned in actions, and HEA has little to stand on. How can we trust so blindly in an organization that knew for years that their natural gas supply contract would be ending? Hilcorp publicly announced this in 2022. We need to begin demanding that HEA be transparent and held accountable.

The Board meeting following the Annual Meeting of the Members took place on May 14, 2024. There was nothing but routine policy renewals on the agenda. In fact, the only real renewable topic the Board discussed was the rooftop solar net metering program due to concerns raised by unsuccessful District 3 candidate Michael Jones that it was costing HEA too much money to buy back power produced from solar panels. When the financial report showed the amount was essentially negligible to their budget, the Board members dropped the subject. Overall, there was no sense of urgency or demonstrated progress toward renewable energy implementation. 

If this pace continues, everyone on Peninsula will feel the consequences of slow or no action on renewable energy. HEA has made big promises about developing renewables, but based on how they’ve reacted in the two years since the gas crisis was made public, members shouldn’t take their word for it. Attending monthly board meetings, requesting regular renewable updates, and asking for the full version of the strategic plan,  are essential actions that show HEA that their members are watching and waiting.