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Candidates Corner: Vince Dauciunas | Guest Column
By Vince Dauciunas
I am running for a second term as a member of the Board of Directors of OPALCO.
I want to help make sure that what is a great Cooperative now becomes an even greater one in the future.
When our co-op was formed, the biggest concern was a lack of power. We have electricity now. In fact it’s a given.
You probably only think about it when a storm knocks the lights off, or when you pay your monthly bill. But the hard-working men and women of OPALCO deliver safe, reliable, and affordable power all the time. And the management and the b oard focus a lot of attention on making sure that OPALCO will continue to do so into the future.
Planning for that future requires a lot of work, knowledge, and perseverance on the part of all. OPALCO purchases its electricity from BPA (Bonneville Power Administration). BPA will continue to face pressure on its ability to keep costs down. They need to make investments in an aging hydroelectric system. Coal plants will be shutting down in the region, leaving a hole in generating capacity. BPA will need to spend more in order to integrate a growing amount of wind-generated electricity.
All these issues, and more may cause prices to rise, or availability to be constrained. I support a number of ways to address these issues.
First, BPA has been, and will continue to be a good partner. We need to keep a strong financial and technical relationship with them as our supplier of first choice.
Second, we need to do all we can to conserve energy, and use it efficiently. The cheapest energy is that which you don’t use. OPALCO has a strong program including home energy use assessments and financial rebates. A comprehensive conservation potential analysis was recently completed. It shows how, with member support, we can keep our power use down and costs from rising rapidly. In addition, rate structures need to be examined to be sure they support conservation and fairness.
Third, we need to encourage growth in local renewable energy generation. The MORE (Member Owned Renewable Energy) program is helping to do this now. There are over 130 active member-owned facilities in the county today. They generated over 500,000 kilowatt-hours of power in 2013. And OPALCO is partnering with the San Juan Islands Conservation District to put some innovative programs in place, including community solar-gardens. This has the possibility of letting members participate in locally owned solar generating projects, and get credit on their power bills.
Fourth, we need to cooperate with other cooperatives. The board has asked that a comprehensive energy resource analysis be undertaken. This is an in-depth study of how OPALCO might work with other cooperatives in the state to secure parallel sources of power in addition to BPA.
Along with these measures, I approve the ongoing projects that OPALCO is undertaking to maintain and improve our grid system. This includes extending the current fiber optic communication network, and adding new automated devices to increase safety, improve efficiency, and integrate additional local generating capacity.
I strongly support OPALCO in making its fiber optic network available as the foundation for improved broadband capability in the county. Without extending this network, our broadband capability will be determined by the level of investment CenturyLink is willing to make to its aging copper DSL system. And that level of investment is unlikely to meet our needs. The cellular providers have shown no interest in increasing coverage.
Dozens of rural cooperatives across the country are stepping up to the challenge of meeting their communities’ need for better communications, since they are not being met by other means. Examples of co-ops providing service today are Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Tipton, Missouri, and Douglas Electric Cooperative in Roseburg, Oregon.
Finally, we need to explore new and more effective ways to communicate and engage with OPALCO’s owner-members. I support the two member-initiated proposals to add informational meetings, and video access to board meetings.
Serving the members as a director means putting in a lot of work. It means being willing and able to handle complex technical issues, the forces that are shaping the future of electrical power, and the financial tradeoffs that need to be made. It means working with the members to make their cooperative stronger and better able to meet their needs.
My technical and business background has given me the ability to contribute to OPALCO’s mission. I have been working with the OPALCO team on these issues for the last three years.
I want to keep working on them for you, and I ask for your vote.