Member households of Holy Cross Energy will find ballots in their mailboxes this week as the cooperative corporation gears up to elect two members to the Board of Directors.
Consumer-members will choose from a pool of three candidates for the Western District and a pool of five candidates to represent the Northern District. Each consumer will cast one vote per district. The winners will serve four-year terms, and directors are not term-limited.
Historically, participation in Holy Cross board elections is quite low — averaging about 7% — so the co-op is offering four ways to vote: by mail, online, through a consumer account, or in person.
“We have 45,000 members,” said Member and Community Relations Vice President Jenna Weatherred. “I think that ends up around 3,000 folks that vote, but we would love to have more. We’re a cooperative, which means we’re democratically-led and we really encourage folks to vote.”
Holy Cross is unique among the landscape of energy providers. It is a private, not-for-profit co-op that reinvests any revenue into services, infrastructure, rate stability, or patronage capital to member-owners.
Local ranchers and farmers banded together to get a government grant to bring electricity to the region when private companies failed to do so. In 1939, Holy Cross Electric Association Inc. was born.
“It’s a special thing to rural areas where there wasn’t money to be made from bringing electricity,” Weatherred said. “Because we are not-for-profit, we truly are doing our best to serve the members. And our mission is to bring a responsible transition to the clean energy future.”
The board of directors of Holy Cross is responsible for setting the strategic vision for the co-op. That vision currently has directed staff to meet a “100% clean energy by 2030” goal.
According to their website, Holy Cross uses 48% renewable energy, 31% coal, less than 1% mine methane, and 5% natural gas.
The first board meeting with the two new directors will be June 21. Courses for new directors are offered by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which Holy Cross bylaws require.
How to vote
Instructions to vote by mail will be included on the mail ballot.
To vote online, members will need credentials found on the mailed ballot or in the email they received titled “Holy Cross Energy Director Election Login.”
Members can also vote through their SmartHub account on a web browser or through the mobile app. Log in, and click on the “Vote Now” button.
In-person voting will be available from 5-6 p.m. at the annual meeting on Thursday, June 15, at TACAW in Basalt.
Mailed and electronic ballots must be received by Tuesday, June 13, at 11:59 p.m. Members who do not meet this deadline may vote in person at the annual meeting. If more than one ballot is submitted per member-of-record, precedence will be given to the paper ballot, officials said.
Meet the candidates
Three candidates are running for one open seat to represent the Western District, which roughly comprises Marble to Parachute.
Thomas Sherman: “Transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2030 will be a challenging goal to meet. Base load is still largely through fossil fuels because of economics and infrastructure. I don’t know if members are in favor of higher energy bills to have sustainable, renewable energy. The PURE program, put in place to encourage a transition to renewables, is a great opportunity to get a measure of public willingness to pay a premium for renewables.”
Peggy Meyer: “While working across the energy industry over the past 30 years, I helped guide various organisations to lower their energy costs while also transitioning towards a more sustainable approach. From large corporations to municipalities, cost reduction was always a leading issue to be considered alongside sustainability. In my professional roles, I worked to unroot and eliminate hidden costs and determine hindrances to a cost efficient supply chain. This work evolved in recent years as the true concerns of energy uses has undergone a revolution: Green energy sources and lower carbon footprints are now real user needs, not just blurbs at the end of a corporate press statement.”
Alex DeGolia, incumbent: “During my first term on the board, we have made several decisions that will have enormous implications for the membership and cooperative. These include the decision to commit to providing 100% clean electricity by 2030, acquisition of large-scale renewable energy resources, updating our rate structure to align with how we will operate into the future and ensure our long-term financial sustainability, grid resilience upgrades through programs like installation of smart devices throughout our system, and developing new programs, such as Power+ and Peak Time Payback, that enable members to benefit from partnering with the cooperative as we transition to a clean energy future.”
Five candidates are running for one open seat to represent the Northern District, which roughly comprises Vail to Dotsero.
Kimberly Schlaepfer: “I believe the biggest challenge facing HCE in the next 5 years will be achieving their goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030 while not disrupting the reliability of our electric grid and keeping our bills for its members as low as possible. Traditional fossil-fuel power sources are polluting but reliable because they can be turned on or off and ramped up on-demand. Renewables on the other hand must be approached differently. They generate power differently than traditional fossil-fuel-based sources but crucially are also much cheaper. As HCE reaches their goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030, the challenge of power reliability will need to be addressed head on.”
Craig Arthur Brown: “My service on a metro board has shown the importance of community engagement and having the right mix of professional management driven by leadership. A board, in my view, needs to be willing to question the status quo and advise management. In an elective position, the board needs to seek out and listen to those who may have been underrepresented or part of the “silent majority.” This co-op services a broad demographic. The history of this co-op has focused on all. I will uphold that focus.”
Linn Brooks: “Current rate structures were developed when the cost of source electricity was low and stable. Holy Cross is doing great work in shifting to renewables to manage increasing and unstable power costs, but members must also change. The billing rate structure along with targeted rebates, education, and positive messaging can incentivize members to make green investments in the power-using infrastructure in their homes and businesses. Together Holy Cross and its members can realign supply and demand to make progress towards a more stable electrical grid. The Holy Cross cooperative membership is diverse in many ways, and to meet its ambitious goals for the benefit of all members, Holy Cross must effectively connect with its many member sectors. Fully a third of members are Spanish speaking. Engaging effectively with this important constituency means providing information in Spanish and finding ways to improve accessibility to Holy Cross information and programs. Other important sectors include commercial and rural members whose energy needs may not fit rate structures designed for residential members.”
Brian Brandl: “I believe that as we forge into the future, cleaner, more efficient energy is the way, but it has to be done sustainably. It should not be handled with a preset completion date that may or may not be feasible or under poor planning that can have catastrophic results down the road. I think new cutting-edge technology in both the nuclear and hydrogen industries offer a lot of solutions to the problems every power grid is facing. I believe that a sound business plan, which will help keep the co-op financially healthy and protect its members, is of crucial importance.”
Roseann Casey: “The State of Colorado and Holy Cross Energy (HCE) have both set ambitious goals to cut emissions and increase renewable energy. Colorado is blessed with abundant natural resources, but the process of planning for investments, incentivizing smart infrastructure development, integrating renewable resources, and providing reliable and affordable power to consumers is a complex challenge. Aside from technical and financial aspects, HCE has the opportunity and challenge to educate and engage local communities and to help prepare our workforce to be at the leading edge of this transition. Consumers and communities are concerned about affordability, reliability, equity, and the impact that new and retiring power resources may have on local economies. Holy Cross excels in member outreach and collaboration with regional and state entities, but this coordination and collaboration will continue to be both a challenge and an opportunity. Last but not least, the HCE service area is vulnerable to fires and extreme weather events, which require exceptional planning and management. I expect that recent events in Colorado and elsewhere will continue to inform HCE planning, operations, and investment.”
Full candidate bios and Q+As are available at the Holy Cross website in English and Spanish.