Power board challenger call for more efficiency | VailDaily.com

Power board challenger call for more efficiency

Dave Munk Holy Cross Energy should identify a full range of power supply options

EAGLE COUNTY – Holy Cross Energy, which provides electricity to most of Eagle County, is holding a board of directors election this spring.

Ballots were mailed recently to the roughly 35,000 eligible members of the electric co-op, and voting is open until 11 a.m. June 5, when the utility’s annual meeting begins at the Ramada Inn at Glenwood Springs.

All members can vote for candidates in every director district. This year, there are two candidates for the Aspen-area director’s seat and three candidates for the Vail Valley’s director seat. The Vail Daily asked all the candidates to answer a handful of questions. Here are the answers from Dave Munk, a challenger for the Roaring Fork Valley district seat.

Name: Dave Munk.

Age: 52.

Residence: El Jebel.

Personal: I’m married with two young children, and I have lived in the area for 26 years.

Employment: I am a senior program manager with Resource Action Programs, which designs and implements residential energy and water efficiency programs nationally.

Why do you want this job? Utilities are facing unusual challenges which have only been heightened by the recent economic downturn. Economic, regulatory, and public pressures are reshaping the conditions in which Holy Cross and all utilities operate. In order to best serve our members, new ideas and approaches are needed. Fortunately, Holy Cross can learn from the successes of other utilities and avoid the risks that come with untested programs or policies.

I am running for the board to bring a fresh perspective, proven ideas, and new energy to improve our cooperative. I will bring the lessons learned from successful utilities during my 15 years of utility industry experience to help our board and management model our programs and policies on the best practices available. Working with the rest of the board and Holy Cross management, we can strengthen our position as a leading cooperative utility while improving the high level of service to our members during these times of change.

What do people need to know about Holy Cross? Holy Cross is a well-run utility with a highly talented and dedicated staff. The member-owners of the cooperative expect reliable service, reasonable energy prices, and to minimize the environmental and social impacts of our energy use. Meeting all three of these expectations is critical to the long-term success of our local economy and the vitality of our communities.

The utility world is changing rapidly. Members should expect a broader range of services, information, and choice from their utility. Also, some of the decisions and policies that have served Holy Cross so well through its history may need to be reassessed in this new environment.

How should Holy Cross plan for possibility of future legislation requiring utilities to get a greater percentage of their electricity from renewable sources? Holy Cross should expand efforts to encourage locally generated renewable power regardless of legislation. Our members have indicated through two consecutive surveys that they want us to do this, and the economics of renewable energy become more attractive with each new investment. This helps reduce the environmental impact of our electric service and keeps dollars recirculating in our local economy.

We also need to increase the emphasis on energy efficiency to help moderate the demand for electricity during peak periods and as the result of the anticipated growth in our region. This will not only help member households and businesses gain greater control and reduce their energy costs, but will also help achieve our goal of increasing the percentage of power we obtain from renewable sources. Holy Cross also needs a strategic plan to guide investments in efficiency and renewable energy.

While the national economy has virtually stopped growth in Holy Cross’ service area, how should the utility plan for the days when economy is healthier?

I have several ideas:

• Energy efficiency efforts should be pursued aggressively – right now. Families and businesses will be more eager to manage costs through efficiency during a recession, and success with efficiency efforts will help temper the eventual growth in demand for electricity as the economy recovers. The new tiered rate structure will also encourage more member partnerships with Holy Cross to help reduce energy use in order to control costs.

• Develop a skilled pool of young workers to cover both attrition and growth. Holy Cross is facing an impending exodus of long-term employees which will call for an influx of new staff. There presently is a shortage of skilled individuals to replace those who retire and also to fill new positions that will come with the economic recovery. Holy Cross should identify key skills which will be needed to meet strategic goals and develop job descriptions to ensure that the natural turnover is as smooth as possible.

• Holy Cross should work with entities such as the Governor’s Energy Office and Colorado Mountain College to help encourage the expansion or creation of these types of programs which will develop the needed expertise in our local workforce. Given the current economic conditions and the attractiveness of potential employment with Holy Cross, interest should be strong.

• Holy Cross should identify a full range of power supply options that could be needed to cover the increased demand which will accompany the eventual economic recovery. It’s likely that the overall recovery will be broad in nature and the demand for electricity could expand rapidly over a large region, if not nationally. This would affect the availability and pricing for the electricity we will need to purchase (or generate ourselves). Preparations for increased supply requirements and potentially higher costs should begin now and incorporate more stable, local options when appropriate.

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