HEA hosts annual board meeting in Homer

The meeting included a board election and addressed energy issues on the Kenai Peninsula

Homer Electric Association held their 74th annual meeting for members on Thursday, May 2 at Homer High School.

The event, which featured board elections, was an opportunity for the company to share HEA news, business and updates with community members. Typically, the annual meeting locations alternate between HEA districts but with COVID the meeting has not been held in Homer for several years.

Chief Strategy Officer Keri-Ann Baker reviewed some of the highlights of the meeting for the Homer News.

Prior to the start of the meeting, the association set up stations in the high school commons for attendees to ask questions of HEA employees, she said.

“We really like to bring employees who represent different divisions of the association so they can share their expertise. We have our engineers, the operations team, customer service, net metering team and IT team; we have somebody at each of these tables that can speak on any of the issues that someone might be interested in,” Baker said.

The first order of business for the meeting was the board election.

Charles Chenault was reelected to the District 1 seat, which includes the Kenai, Nikiski and parts of Soldotna. Robert Wall was reelected to District 2, which covers Soldotna, Sterling and Kasilof. In District 3, which includes Ninilchik, Homer and Kachemak Bay, Louie Flora was reelected.

Ballots cast three ways: through the mail, online or in person at the meeting.

“The rest of the presentation went really well,” Baker said. “We provided information on a lot of the projects we’re looking at currently and some of the concerns that we have. One of the biggest concerns we have right now is trees falling into power lines from outside the right of way. HEA clears each part of the line every seven years but what we are seeing is a spike in tree falls from outside of the clearage zone due to spruce bark beetle deceased trees causing outages or worse, potential fire hazard.”

The outages are inconvenient but in the dry summer months the concern is fire, she said.

Baker said they communicated with the audience what to do if you see a hazardous tree on your private property. That is something that can be reported to HEA and the association will come out to assess whether or not the tree is endangering a line and it can be removed. HEA needs permission to do that on private property.

“We’re responsible for taking the tree down and clearing, but we try very hard to respect the privacy components of the landowner,” Baker said.

Other energy topics discussed at the meeting included landfill gas, a pilot project on wind studies in Cook Inlet and a geothermal study on Mount Spur and Mount Saint Augustine.

Baker also mentioned that during the meeting there was discussion of a potential grant project on the south side of Kachemak Bay that would benefit the communities of Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek.

The communities currently have a backup generator installed and HEA is connected to them by fee. “They really could use some real overhaul on energy availability in that area,” Baker said.

Also discussed at the meeting was the topic of fuel availability and a reported pending shortage of gas in Cook Inlet.

“One other thing we’re looking at is fuel availability,” Baker said. “If we don’t do something about this component we will have significant issues in the future if Cook Inlet gas issues go up. We do now have a contract with Enstar and they have ensured us that they can meet our needs and we’re trying to get all of the utility facilities to form a pool so we can purchase fuel together. Alaska is a small market that without some kind of purchasing power, it becomes a struggle for all of us. We need more leverage that going at it alone.”

Many of audience questions posed during the comments session of the meeting were related to the heat pump program and the net metering program, she said. According to the HEA website, the net metering program is method of producing renewable energy for personal homes.

The program is open to all retail members and provides an opportunity for members to install and use certain types of renewable generation to offset monthly electric usage and sell excess power, if any, to HEA. More information is available at https://www.homerelectric.com/energy-efficiency/net-metering/.

The annual meeting packet, annual report and meeting is streamed and available at https://www.homerelectric.com/my-cooperative/annual-meeting/.