Point of View: Vote Flora for renewable energy

My name is Louie Flora and I am running for a seat on the Homer Electric Association (HEA) Board of Directors, in district 3, which encompasses the southern peninsula from the Kasilof River south to Nanwalek.

I believe this is a critical time for members of the HEA cooperative to vote for representation favoring renewable energy. I believe that our financial and climate security depends on a rapid shift to energy sources that do not contribute additional carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere.

HEA recently adopted a target goal of having 50% of our energy generation come from renewable sources by 2025. Meeting this goal is critical to reduce our dependence on expensive Cook Inlet Natural gas, diversify our energy sources, and address the growing issue of climate change. Factoring in projects that are not yet online, like the Grant Lake Hydroelectric Project, the HEA generation portfolio is at roughly 19% renewable. Increasing renewable energy generation by 30% in the next four and a half years will take a focused effort by the HEA board to identify and research smart, cost-effective renewable energy and energy storage projects.

To reach 50% renewables and beyond, HEA will have to replace both the capacity and the regulation currently provided by expensive natural gas plants. By seeking out wind, solar and low-impact hydro projects for generation, and building additional energy storage sources and demand-response programs to balance out the variable renewable energy, HEA can take advantage of the same low-cost energy that is being built out throughout other areas of the US. In the Lower 48, wind and solar generation is consistently cheaper than running existing fossil fuel plants, and it is getting cheaper all the time. With our expensive natural gas, this is likely to be true here as well.

HEA’s 93MWh lithium battery will come online this summer. It will provide immediate savings by allowing existing gas plants to run more efficiently. It will ensure overall system reliability, while also adding capacity that can be used to regulate renewable power. We have the ability to take on cost-effective renewable power as soon as it can be built. In the future, we may need to add longer-duration storage, such as pumped-storage hydroelectricity (PSH). PSH is established technology and persistently the cheapest storage technology. Siting of PSH is fairly flexible and depends on mountains that we have a lot of.

I believe that our utility plays a critical role in unlocking the future of residential energy use. HEA’s popular Net Metering program is a way for homeowners to generate as much electricity as they use and send the rest back out onto the grid. While there are numerous valid complaints about the structure of the program that must be addressed, solar power displaces natural gas use, and the skyrocketing popularity of home solar is something HEA should continue to support.

With a likely increase in federal money to upgrade infrastructure across the country, there will be numerous opportunities for HEA to access grants and low to zero-interest loans to move projects forward, create transmission system redundancy to make us more resilient to wildfire and storm event impacts, and to create financing programs to help lower home and business energy-related costs. HEA should act quickly to take advantage of these opportunities.

Ballots were sent out by mail starting April 5 for the HEA Directors election to all HEA member-owners (your name is on an HEA bill). If you didn’t receive a ballot, or perhaps accidentally tossed the one that was sent, you can call either the Homer or Kenai HEA office at 1 (800) 478-8551 and the Member Services department will mail a replacement. All ballots must be received at HEA by mail (you cannot drop off your ballot at the HEA office) before May 5th. Thank you for exercising your right as a member-owner to vote in this election.

Louie Flora is a candidate for District 3, Homer Electric Association Board of Directors.