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The results from Sangre de Cristo, Delta-Montrose nad Holy Cross

Sandy Long hopes to help Sangre de Cristo Electric deploy techniques to lower peak use – and costs

Like its namesake mountain range, the service territory of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Electric Association is long and skinny, extending from the upper Arkansas River drainage around Leadville to the Wet Mountain Valley around Westcliff. But those towns as well as Salida and others are served by Xcel or other providers.

The electrical cooperative has a high percentage of rural customers, as measured by customers per line. They don’t use all that much electricity, but they do tend to use it when peak demand is greatest. That results in high electricity rates for all members.

Providing oversight in how to suppress peak demand will be one of the top priorities of Sandy Long, who was elected to the board of directors this spring.

A member of Sangre de Cristo for 20 years, Long lives near Buena Vista and, although now retired, has an electrical engineering degree and a master’s in business administration. For most of her career she was a product manager in the telecom and power industry. She was also on the board of directors of a consumer products company. In short, she has experience.

Long is the fifth member of a group called Ark Valley Energy Future that has been elected to the board of the Buena Vista-based Sangre de Cristo Electric during the last three years. She fills the at-large seat on the board.

In her campaigning, Long told members that she believes the electrical cooperative can lower costs of electricity by instituting demand-management programs. There have been minimal incentives to moderate use. The result is that demand for the cooperative’s members coincide with times when electricity is at a premium on regional markets. That means the cooperative must pay an elevated figure to its wholesale provider, Tri-State G&T, and Tri-State must also pay premium prices.

“If you smooth down that peak, you don’t pay Tri-State as much and Tri-State doesn’t have to build as much generation to satisfy peak demand,” she explained to Big Pivots.

“If I am worried about the environment, I should be worried about peak demand. Because if we can reduce peak demand we can turn off these coal plants.”

Long won 68% of the vote. Her opponent, Ed Simmons, also had an impressive background. He was a reactor power plant operator on two submarines in the U.S. Navy and then had a career in the private sector designing coal and natural-gas fired plants and consulted on design of a geothermal plant.

Analyzing the turnout, Long said Simmon’s shorter residency in the area hurt him but he benefited from those who wanted to vote against Ark Valley Energy Futures and its pro-renewables tilt.

Western Colorado Alliance scores 100% in election of Delta-Montrose Electric Association candidates

Three director seats were open at Delta-Montrose Electric Association, and the three endorsed by the Western Colorado Alliance all succeeded. Two of the seats were contested.

Ryan Sedgeley, an attorney, will be new to the board. He won with 58% of the vote. His campaign stressed support for photovoltaic solar as well as the challenge of climate change. On the campaign trail, he talked about the need to create an electricity system that will remain stable even as provoked by demands posed by rising temperatures and more unstable, and extreme weather.

“I never had anyone balk at that,” he told Big Pivots. “There is an understanding (of the challenge of climate change), and it is a concern to have power for cooling because we have a lot of retirement-age people.”

Sedgeley had helped put on the recent conference in Montrose devoted to geothermal prospects.

In his career, Sedgeley has worked at everything from being a power plant mechanic in Yellowstone to getting his law degree from the University of Wyoming.

His opponent, Toby Romero, had worked for 30 years for Tri-State Generation and Transmission. “I know how to keep the lights on,” he said in a candidate questionnaire.

Steven Metheny won by only 34 votes among 1,232 cast in a three-way race. He had been appointed to fill a vacancy last November. However, he had also worked at Delta-Montrose from 1981 until his retirement in 2018. After a brief time in retirement, he went back to work, this time in continuing education in technology at the Montrose campus of Colorado Mesa University.

In his post-election interview with Big Pivots, he emphasized a focus on physics and economics. Instead of trying to quantify the risk of climate change, what works is to focus on physics and economics, he said. Those have led directly to the advancement of renewable energy.

In a candidate questionnaire, he shared that he and his wife, Jane, designed and live in an energy efficient “barndominium” with passive solar and ground-source heat pumps for heating and cooling.

Metheny won over two other candidates. One of them, Jesse Haywood, is a master electrician.

 

And in Holy Cross, status quo prevails

Keith Klessner had an easy time of it in his re-election bid at Holy Cross Energy. Klessner got 77% of the vote in the Eagle-area district, defeating Matt Solomon, a proponent of nuclear energy. Top photo, Dave Munk, chairman of the board for Holy Cross, welcomes members at the cooperative’s annual meeting on June 6.

Allen Best
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