Homer Electric Members Give ‘Cold Shoulder’ to Deregulation

Homer Electric Association (HEA) – which serves about 23,000 members on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula – will remain under the oversight of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA), the agency which oversees the pricing practices of public utilities in Alaska announced on December 20 (Docket No. U-16-072/Order U-16-072[3]), according to a report by the local Peninsula Clarion.

The decision was based on a ballot, in which 4,854 HEA members voted “no,” and 2,042 members voted “yes” – opting not to exempt HEA from deregulation. Three-hundred seventy-five ballots were discarded for being improperly filled out, according to the RCA’s announcement of election results.

Because utilities often have monopolies over power delivery in a certain area, changes in a public utility’s rates must be approved by the RCA’s five commissioners, with the goal of keeping rates close to the amount needed to recover a utility’s expenses, the local news outlet said..

HEA’s nine-member Board of Directors voted unanimously on April 12 to hold the deregulation election. In October, HEA members received ballots along with their electric bills, which were mailed in six waves, the last sent on October 28. Members returned 7,271 ballots, which the RCA hired an accounting firm — Thomas, Head, and Griesen — to begin counting on December 8.

HEA will be able to apply for a recount within the next 10 days, the Peninsula Clarion said. Under Alaska statute, the cooperative won’t be able to hold another deregulation election for two years.

“The HEA Board of Directors would like to thank each and every one of the members for voting on this important matter,” wrote HEA Director of Member Relations Bruce Shelley in a press release. “Almost one third of the membership voted which highlights one of the values of the cooperative model, enabling members to provide direction to their utility.”

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