Vail Valley residents seek utility board seats |

Vail Valley residents seek utility board seats

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Four valley residents are seeking two seats on the Holy Cross Energy Board of Directors this spring.

One incumbent – Adam Palmer of Eagle – is running for another three-year term. Other candidates are Kristen Bertuglia, Dave Mott and John McCaulley. Voters will also be asked to choose one of two candidates from the Roaring Fork Valley – Robert Gardner and Robert Hubbell. Voting is “at large,” which means people can cast ballots for all three seats. Directors will serve three-year terms.

Check out Thursday’s Vail Daily for profiles of Gardner and Hubbell.

The utility has sent ballots to its “members,” and those who receive bills from Holy Cross are eligible to vote in the election. Ballots can be returned by mail, or can be hand-delivered to the June 8 Holy Cross annual meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. at the utility’s warehouse building in Glenwood Springs.

All this year’s candidates participated in an email questionnaire. Here are their answers.

Age: 33.

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Occupation: Town of Vail environmental sustainability coordinator.

Residence/district seat sought: Northern District (Gypsum to Vail).

Why do you want this job? Electricity and the resource use associated with producing it provide the single biggest opportunity to affect the outcome of our environmental future. I have spent the last 10 years working with communities, individuals and businesses to reduce energy use in buildings and in transportation. I know how to effectively implement demand-side management programs, and would like to bring new insight into developing them. It would be an honor to help take Holy Cross Energy to the next level in delivering reliable, low cost power to our members with an expanded renewable energy portfolio.

What’s the biggest challenge facing Holy Cross Energy right now? Effectively implementing the multi-tiered energy efficiency plan to reduce demand will require increased staff, marketing, outreach and incentives. This ongoing challenge of reducing demand while diversifying our portfolio with renewable sources and keeping costs low will be our greatest concern. Balancing the inevitable increase in electricity needs by an increased population and the electric car industry will provide both challenges and opportunities.

What grade would you give to Holy Cross’s current renewable energy initiatives? We are lucky to have forward-thinking leadership at Holy Cross Energy, and throughout its membership. Holy Cross has adopted a voluntary goal of supplying 20 percent of electricity with renewable resources by 2015. I have worked with Holy Cross staff during Vail’s biomass project development and was impressed by the willingness to address complicated issues.

No matter the complexity (in-ground pipelines, forest service contract for trees, green power purchase price, etc.), staff was creative, thoughtful and excited about the concept. Renewable energy rebates ($1.50/watt), community solar farms, the Gypsum biomass plant, Wind Power Pioneers and hydro projects are examples of Holy Cross’ commitment. I would give our co-op a strong B. We are headed in the right direction and have a bright future ahead of us.

What do you think the best path is to including more renewables in the Holy Cross portfolio while still keeping costs affordable for members? Every 1,000 kilowatt hours of power sold equals 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. Reducing this impact is a tall order, especially as population continues to increase. To meet statewide and community goals of reducing their carbon footprint 20 percent by 2020, Holy Cross Energy and local policymakers must work together to plan for the future in creating projects (solar, biomass and hydro) and policy (efficient building programs and incentives).

Luckily, in answer to members’ support for renewable energy, a 2 percent surcharge has been applied to our energy bills to create a base fund for this effort. The more diverse our portfolio, the less Holy Cross will be affected by the fluctuating costs of traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas.

Age: A young 77.

Occupation: Retired.

Residence/district seat sought: Near Wolcott, Northern District.

Why do you want this job? I support Holy Cross Energy Board’s primary goal of providing reliable, cost-effective electrical energy to members consistent with sound business and environmental practices. As a professional engineer with experience in the power industry along with extensive participation on numerous public boards, I want to work cooperatively to achieve this goal. Since I’m retired, I have the time and interest to fully participate as a board member.

What is the biggest challenge facing Holy Cross Energy right now? Today’s society is concerned about global warming, air pollution, and making the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. State law reflects this concern by requiring 10 percent of energy sales for “Electric Cooperatives” to originate from renewable sources by the year 2020. To achieve this, Holy Cross will have to continue to invest in solar, wind, hydro, biomass and other renewables where there are practical applications.

Examples to date are individual and collective solar installations, wind turbines on the eastern plains and a biomass power project at Gypsum. The challenge will be to achieve 10 percent renewable energy in the most cost-effective manner, minimizing the impact on electric rates.

What grade would you give to Holy Cross’s current energy initiatives? Holy Cross Energy is a leader among electric cooperatives in investing in renewable energy and deserves an A. In addition to “Green” programs, Holy Cross takes a pro-active role in energy conservation with its “We Care” initiatives, stressing conservation and efficiency.

What do you think the best path is to including renewables in the Holy Cross portfolio while still keeping costs affordable for members? One of the best renewable programs Holy Cross has come up with is called the “Wind Power Pioneer” program. For an additional $1.25 per 100 kilowatt hours, members may participate in wind-generated power on Colorado’s eastern plains. This voluntary program allows participation in renewable energy without affecting the energy rates of others. Many environmentally sensitive members are willing to pay a little extra for wind power as evidenced by the fact that the program is already oversubscribed.

Another innovative project involves capturing methane venting from abandoned coal mines west of Glenwood Springs and using it to generate power. A businessman has come up with a plan to do just that, with Holy Cross buying the electricity. If successful, this initiative will produce a win/win situation, reducing air pollution and producing useful energy.

The Gypsum biomass plant is a third renewable project that will remove beetle-killed pine from surrounding areas and use the wood chips to fuel a steam turbine generating electricity.

Holy Cross’s willingness to consider all forms of renewable energy is a reasonable approach to achieving a mix of electrical power that is environmentally friendly while maintaining affordable rates.

One important aspect of most renewable energy sources is that they are limited in their energy availability on an annual basis. For example, solar produces energy about 25 percent of the time and wind 35 percent. Therefore these sources must be backed up by conventional power production facilities using fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. In this regard, Holy Cross has reduced its carbon emissions by investing heavily in a new central station facility outside Pueblo which produces electricity 15 percent more efficiently than typical generation plants. This assures reliability and economy to its members while the technology for renewables matures and becomes more competitive.

As a Holy Cross Energy board candidate, I favor this balanced approach to environmental responsibility.

Age: 57.

Occupation: Retired firefighter (I currently work for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District).

Residence/district seat sought: Northern District, Edwards (Holy Cross member since 1980).

Why do you want this job? I want to be more involved. As someone known for consensus building, I will seek long-term price stability, and fiscal responsibility. I believe in balanced representation between public and private, large and small business, and the residential consumer. I will support the two basic objectives of Holy Cross Energy Cooperative – generate and deliver electricity.

What’s the biggest challenge facing Holy Cross Energy right now? The first is the economy – we need to find ways to promote growth and support business. With the possible exception of natural gas, fuel costs will continue to rise, fossil fuels will eventually run out. Alternatives must be constantly evaluated. Secondly are the legislative challenges. I have a great deal of experience in dealing with ever-changing legislative issues. I have testified and attended many hearings and followed lobbyists around. Lastly, we need long-term reliable electricity generation combined with smart grid technology.

What grade would you give to Holy Cross’s current renewable energy initiatives? I would give Holy Cross an A for the foresight to evaluate all options for long term reliable electrical energy to supply all of the constituents. We (Holy Cross) will need to look at all options.

What do you think the best path is to including more renewables in the Holy Cross portfolio while still keeping costs affordable for members? I don’t believe at this time there is a silver bullet to energy solutions. As an example, while serving on the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District board, we oversaw one of the most environmentally friendly buildings built in Colorado conserving more than 63 percent of the average energy use for a building its size. This building conserves at multiple levels – passively, actively, air flow, water management and so forth. Not one single component of this building saves 63 percent, but when integrated all the technologies work together.

All the candidates have made several suggestions. I feel they should all be explored and find the best long term solution that is in the best interest of all consumers.

Age: 40.

Occupation: Eagle County Environmental Policy Planner.

Residence/district seat sought: Eagle/Northern District

Why do you want this job? When I wake up our two girls in the morning I’m reminded of the importance to leave this place better than we found it. It’s really been an honor to represent our members’ interests at our cooperatively-owned electric utility to increase our local renewable energy supply, help local businesses and especially low income families save money, create jobs, and develop a diverse, long-term energy portfolio to keep rates low and stable.

What’s the biggest challenge facing Holy Cross Energy right now? Currently our biggest challenges are renewing our long-term energy purchase contract with PSCO, successional planning for key internal staff leadership positions, and implementing our energy efficiency plan.

What grade would you give to Holy Cross’s current renewable energy initiatives? We’ve supported community-owned solar projects, residential solar rebates, coal mine methane capture into energy, the Gypsum wood waste combined heat and power biomass project, Wind Power Pioneers program, local solar farm requests for proposals, partnered with the Bair family to construct the first vortex “micro-hydro” system in the nation, and with the town of Basalt to develop an innovative town-managed micro-hydro system. I’d give us a solid B+. We’ve accomplished a lot with plenty of opportunity ahead. It’s all positive.

What do you think the best path is to including more renewables in the Holy Cross portfolio while still keeping costs affordable for members? Since 2004, Holy Cross has applied a 2 percent surcharge to members’ bills, which has paid for renewable energy and efficiency programs (this is now separately itemized on bills), which has been consistently supported through customer surveys in 2006 and 2009. We’ve been able to highly leverage these resources by investing in renewable energy and efficiency projects on a case-by-case basis which are able to demonstrate a sound business case to our members.

As renewable energy technologies continue to drop in cost and become more and more competitive with coal and natural gas, such opportunities will continue to expand our renewable energy portfolio without raising rates. An example of this is when we released a competitive request for proposals last year for “all-of-the-above” renewable energy technologies, and selected the Gypsum biomass project, which is scheduled to be operational in 2014. This provides a sound investment for our members, increases local energy supply, creates local jobs, utilizes a salvage wood waste fuel, and retains capital within our community that would otherwise be sent outside of the area.

Please contact me at or at with any feedback or questions.