Going green: Renewable energy advocates have transformed Holy Cross Energy’s election debates

Three board seats up for grabs in mail election

Flowers and vegetation bloom solar panels in Carbondale with a view of Mount Sopris on Friday, May 29, 2020. The solar farm is one of several renewable energy projects that Holy Cross Energy has tapped for its power supply. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Thirteen years after renewable energy advocates mounted a takeover of Holy Cross Energy’s board of directors, their mission appears complete.

A current mail-in election for three board seats attracted 10 candidates (see information box for more on the candidates). Of that field, five candidates embraced renewable energy as the central message in campaign material. Two other candidates make renewable energy a prominent part of their platform. Two others focus on smart business approaches, while one questions how smart meter technology affects health.

Board elections used to feature debates about how fast the cooperative should switch from power produced from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Now, the debate is focused on getting Holy Cross to its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030. Aspen Skiing Co. played a big role in refocusing HCE.

Skico started recruiting environmentally oriented candidates and making endorsements starting in the 2008 election. Despite mixed results, the board is now packed with renewable energy enthusiasts.

“They’re hugely progressive,” said Auden Schendler, Skico’s senior vice president for sustainability and community engagement, referring to HCE’s staff and board. He cited a list of accomplishments that include setting the 100% renewable energy target, planning for divestment of their ownership interest in the Comanche 3 coal-fired plant, encouraging development of energy efficiency and solar on individual homes and installing smart meters.

Schendler makes endorsements in the races, just as he has since 2008. But he clearly supports the direction Holy Cross has taken, which includes the hiring of renewable energy champion Bryan Hannegan as president and CEO.

“They’re one of the best rural co-ops in the country,” Schendler said. “And they will likely get to their mid-term goals faster than they say. Meanwhile, the whole time they’ve kept rates very low, stable, and are improving power reliability through smart metering.

“They are community leaders,” he continued. “I mean, what more do we want out of these guys?”

Allen Best, a veteran journalist who focuses on energy and water transitions in Colorado, said Holy Cross has set one of the more ambitious goals for renewable energy among power producers.

“It is without parallel in Colorado,” he said.

Best believes it comes as little surprise that nearly all the candidates in the current election are promoting renewable energy sources.

“The debate about coal is over, with the exception of Comanche 3,” he said. “All the coal plants will be closed by 2030. The economics of renewables have made coal yesterday’s story.”

The debate is how much of a role natural gas-fueled power plants will continue to play into the future, he said.

Best believes there is “always room on the board” for different voices, in this case meaning someone who is skeptical about the rush to 100% renewables.

“If they have well-articulated questions, that’s useful,” he said.

Best is taking a look at the Holy Cross races and other energy cooperative elections in his Big Pivots newsletter this week. To subscribe, he can be contacted at

Holy Cross Energy serves customers in the Roaring Fork, Eagle and Lower Colorado River valleys. Ballots were mailed to members last week and must be received by mail no later than June 10.

3 seats, 10 candidates

Holy Cross Energy is currently holding a mail election for three seats. Members must return their ballots by June 10.

There are three candidates for one seat in Holy Cross Energy’s southern district, which includes a large portion of the Roaring Fork Valley. The candidates in that race are Robert Gardner, Brian Davies and Brian Rose. The winner will serve a four-year term.

There are seven candidates for two positions in the northern district. The candidates are Roseann Casey, Keith Klesner, Kristen Bertuglia, G. Andrew Osborne, Kristen Hartel, Adrienne Perer and Thomas Henderson.

The person who gets the most votes in the northern district race will serve a four-year term. The second-place finisher will get a three-year term.

Biographies and answers from the candidates on three primary issues facing Holy Cross are available at