Gary Newman is running for re-election to the GVEA Board of Directors from District 4.

In the past 8 1/2 years that I have served our members on the Board of Directors, GVEA has made significant improvements for the company, the members we serve and our communities at large. The Board of Directors is responsible for directing management with these accomplishments. Here is my list of accomplishments in the time I’ve served and what I see needs to be done in the near future. I don’t claim all these accomplishments as solely mine, yet I have diligently advocated for our successes.

  • We follow our mission to serve our members and communities.
    Recognizing GVEA’s importance to the economic, environmental and social
    viability of our communities, the Cooperative’s mission is to safely provide its
    member-owners with reliable electric service, quality customer service and
    innovative energy solutions at fair and reasonable prices.

  • We set clear strategic directives to management and reviewing frequently to insure that GVEA is headed in the right direction.
  • We work to build Trust with our members – GVEA is a not-for-profit with directors democratically elected by members in each of their districts.

  1. Safety
  2. Reliability
  3. Rates
  4. Transparency
  5. Member Access
  6. Generation and Transmission
  7. Financial
  8. Management
  9. Board
  10. Community
  11. Democratic Control
  12. The Future

1. Safety

  • Safety is our number one concern, had a focused effort by board and management to impart throughout the organization and to our members. We want our employees to go home at the end of the day and our members to be safe as we serve them.

3. Reliability:

  • Outage map and reporting, GVEA may know you are out of service before you do.
  • Increased right of way clearing with a formal plan.
  • Members can report danger trees.
  • Looking to segment our distribution network to isolate outages to affect fewer members.
  • Replaced our aging dispatch energy management and control system.
  • Began winter clearing of ‘rainbow’ trees that cause outages with snow load.
  • Established goal of clearing all distribution rights-of-way every 5 years. In the past, it has been as much as 10 years.

2. Rates:

  • Established a Strategic Generation Plan that will stabilize rates, reduce fuel and operating costs.
  • Converted our newer North Pole generation from diesel to naptha with an agreement with Petrostar that is saving members millions of dollars in reduced fuel costs.
  • Addressing challenges of an unreliable Healy 2. Also challenged with the unreliability of Aurora Energy’s coal plant in Downtown Fairbanks from which we buy power under contract.

4. Transparency:

    Transparency has been a passion of mine and I’ve been tenacious about improvements.

  • Increased information on website on board meetings.
  • Posted values, strategic directives, and policies on website.
  • Board meetings available to members by phone AND video streaming.
  • Improved website and a mobile app to be used on cell phones.
  • More communication to members through a GVEA blog and Facebook.
  • New meters now allow each member to view their own electrical use by as detailed as every 15 minutes.

5. Member Access:

  • Replaced our home-grown customer management system to better provide information and access to members about their service and usage.
  • Pay by phone now also automated 24 hours.
  • Improved access to departments by phone.
  • 4 kiosks for payment in Fairbanks, Nenana, Healy and Delta with extended hours.

6. Generation and Transmission:

  • After over 50 years, finally began formal coordination with the other Railbelt utilities to share resources and reduce generation and transmission costs with the creation of the Railbelt Reliability Council.
  • GVEA has put in for more inexpensive hydro power from Bradley Lake southeast of Homer.
  • Joined with other Railbelt utilities to stop legal fights over transmission and increase reliability on the Northern Kenai transmission line.
  • Healy 2 is one non-success to put it mildly, failing to be reliable, operationally and capital costly. GVEA is looking to phase out when we can acquire replacement power. See The Future>.
  • Installed a 563 kilowatt solar farm with options to add more and a community solar project.
  • Adopted a Carbon Reduction Policy after the 20% Renewable Pledge was met.
  • Increased net metering acceptance to 5% to accommodate members’ solar contributions.
  • Seeking a direction to replace aging generation like Healy 1 and older diesel plants in North Pole and Fairbanks. Update: Healy 1 extended with addition of $30 mm of improvements and installation of environmental controls required by previous agreement of the U.S. Dept. of Justice to keep on line after end of 2024.
  • Looking at ways to minimize the need to generate expensive peak power.
  • Issued Request for Proposals/Information for renewables and energy storage.
  • Federal grants approved for building resilient transmission from the Kenai to Beluga with eventual plans to extend to Healy.
  • Federal grant to build a new battery storage system to support our Eva Creek wind farm and a 16 mw solar farm in Nenana (in progress).
  • Developed Strategic Generation Plan for transition to more reliable and stable form of energy and reduce fuel and operational costs.

7. Financial:

  • Improved our equity from 21% to 34%, allowing for better interest rates when borrowing.
  • Sold our communications subsidiary AlasConnect for a good price.
  • Paid off a major set of loans to the Rural Utility Service with funds saved that had been able to earn 5% return for a limited time.
  • Nimble management of cash flow to keep the members’ money where it can do the most good. This is still a challenge post-Covid
  • Returning capital credits on the scheduled 25 year cycle, plus in 2017 and 2018 returned 25% of each previous year as well.
  • Members financially impacted with the COVID pandemic can apply for financial assistance and won’t be disconnected.
  • Established a $250,000 Benevolent Fund to further assist members impacted by COVID-19 with no impact on rates.
  • GVEA is investigating offering On Bill Financing for those interested in low cost loans for their own renewable energy systems or weatherization efforts. The Member Advisory Committee is working with finance to develop a program.
  • Tasked management to develop an asset management plan to be more effective in reducing costs and unpleasant surprises with maintenance.
  • Replaced an aging financial management system with an industry standard to increase efficiency and provide better information for financial management and decision making
  • Seeking operational efficiencies and costs to better understand the full and true cost of electrical generation by source, not just fuel costs.

8. Management:

  • Cost Matters at GVEA. Board and Management recognizes the trust members must have in their cooperative. Our new CEO came in March 2020 and immediately made some significant reductions that have carried over into the 2021 budget. It’s the Members Money, not ours.
  • Increasing IT capability and efficiency with special attention to cyber security and member access.
  • Reduced budget during the pandemic with no impact on service or rates.

9. Board:

  • Expectation of directors is high.
  • Time commitment and education of directors are high. I spend on average 80 hours a month on GVEA and energy issues.
  • Active board, not afraid to ask difficult questions.
  • Driving issues are balancing cost with reliability, innovation to meet members’ needs, and cooperation within the board, management, and other Railbelt utilities.
  • Reduced board meeting fees by 20% in response to the pandemic.

10. Community:

  • The Good Cents program that allows members to voluntarily round up their bill to the next dollar to generate funds to help needy non-profit organizations has given out over $1 million dollars since 2011. This is not GVEA managed money – it is directly our members money, so we thank YOU.
  • GVEA has played an active part in the reduction of PM 2.5 pollution with $500,000 to the Wood Stove Change Out Program and an additional $125,000 to test the pollution reducing ESP devices in North Pole. Note none of this came from funds that impact your rates. We continue to monitor our emissions to insure we aren’t a contributor to the issue.
  • Established a Benevolent Fund to assist COVID impacted members to pay their electric bills from funds that do not impact overall member rates. Love, Inc. is administering the program.
  • Continued record-setting United Way contributions.

11. Democratic Control:

  • Member signatures are no longer required on election and bylaw change ballots through a bylaw change approved by members. The issue came up when my investigation revealed that 10-14% of ballots were being rejected, even though there was no verification of the signatures themselves. A 10% valid return is required by bylaws, sometimes not achieved.
  • Increased outreach efforts to encourage members to vote, by mail or secure web.
  • Please vote when you receive ballots in your district every 3 years.

The Future:

  • Implementing the Strategic Generation Plan to increase reliability, reduce fuel and operational costs and carbon emissions, taking full advantage of once-in-a-generation federal funding incentives.
  • Increase social media presence and two-way member communications.
  • Increase community outreach.
  • Beneficial electrification such as electric vehicles, ground source heat pumps.
  • Develop a community solar system as was recommended by the Member Advisory Committee,
  • Expand the energy efficiency program, including On-Bill Financing.
  • Expand coordination with the other Railbelt Utilities through power sharing and economic dispatch, through the Railbelt Reliability Council or otherwise.
  • Build out and improve transmission capacity and resilience throughout the Railbelt.
  • Work to complete delayed capital projects that have been slowed by supply chain and inflation. Until a capital project is completed and ‘useful’, it puts a strain on cash flow as it can’t be put into the rate base and depreciated appropriately. Diligently prioritize future capital projects based on absolute necessity or for cost savings.