Gary Newman is running for re-election to the GVEA Board of Directors from District 4. Here is his statement on what has been accomplished in the time he has served and what is on tap for the near future.
In the past 5 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.
- We are following our mission to serve our members and communities.
- We are setting clear strategic directives to management and reviewing frequently to insure that GVEA is headed in the right direction.
- We are working to build Trust with our members – GVEA is a not-for-profit with directors democratically elected by members in each of their districts.
- Member Access
- Generation and Transmission
- Democratic Control
- The Future
- 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.
- Starting June 1, 2021, we anticipate levelizing the fuel and purchased power rate by extending the averaging from 3 months forward and past to 9 months past and 3 months forward. This will reduce the swings in energy costs to our members.
- Goal in 2020 remains to not increase the utility rate charge in 2020 and into 2021.
- 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.
- 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.
- Increased information on website on board meetings.
- Posted vision, 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:
- 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 beginning 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 is putting 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 lines.
- Healy 2 is finally running, but still working out some kinks in design and operation.
- Installed a half-megawatt solar farm with options to add more.
- Adopted a Carbon Reduction Policy after the 20% Renewable Pledge was met.
- Increased net metering acceptance to 3% to accommodate members’ solar contributions.
- Seeking a direction to replace aging generation like Healy 1 and older diesel plants in North Pole and Fairbanks.
- Looking at ways to minimize the need to generate expensive peak power.
- Improved our equity from 21% to 30%, 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.
- Excellent management of cash flow to keep the members’ money where it can do the most good.
- 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 tasked with evaluating a plan.
- Tasking management to develop an asset management plan to be more effective in reducing costs and unpleasant surprises with maintenance.
- Looking at operational efficiencies and costs to better understand the full and true cost of electrical generation by source, not just fuel costs.
- From Cost Matters at GVEA. Management recognizes that it’s the members’ money. Our new CEO came in March 2020 and 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.
- Reduced budget with COVID with no impact on service.
- Expectation of directors is high.
- Time commitment and education of directors are high.
- Active board is no longer the go-along, get along that was more typical in the past.
- Driving issues are cost, 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.
- 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 funding came from funds that impact your rates.
- 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.
- Planning for replacing aging generation.
- Carbon Reduction considerations.
- Increasing social media presence and two-way member communications.
- Increasing community outreach.
- Beneficial electrification such as electric vehicles, ground source heat pumps.
- Expanding energy efficiency program including On-Bill Financing.
- Expanding coordination with the other Railbelt Utilities through power sharing and economic dispatch through the Railbelt Reliability Council being formed.
- Working to stay on top of climate change impacts to operations and reliability.