Within the past several weeks, the candidates running for election to the Sangre de Cristo Electric Association (SDCEA) have been announced, answered candidate overviews and participated in a League of Women Voters candi-dating forum.
The ballots are out, and members’ votes are due back by June 9. Against this backdrop, just as in other parts of the state, the member-owned energy co-op has dealt with change, proposed a rate unbundling that has been withdrawn for now, and has begun a national search for a new co-op CEO.
This past week, Ark Valley Voice took time with each of the candidates running in contested board seat elections to understand the background on which their viewpoints are built, and clarify information we had heard them discuss.
This was the outlook from Jeff Fiedler, who is running for an at-large board seat:
Q. What should the members know about you and where you’re from?
“So my wife and I were living in the D.C. area in 2005 and at that point we had kids and we didn’t want to be in a big city on the East Coast. My wife grew up in the Denver metro area, so we moved to a house in Wheatridge. Then we thought ‘we got so close to the mountains, but we’re not in the mountains’, and we started to look and found Leadville.
It’s a real community, there’s one hardware store, one grocery. It felt real. Around that time I got a job working remotely in the Denver office of the Nature Conservancy. Our kids are now 15 and 12 and now I consult and serve as a Lake County Commissioner.”
“Mostly I’ve worked on environmental advocacy… my first job out of grad school for seven years in the 90s was as a contractor for U.S. EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency]. Then I went into the nonprofit world at the National Resources Defense Counsel on Climate followed by the National Center for Environmental Research, then to Nature Conservancy.”
Q. So what is it you want to accomplish — what’s your plan of action?
“I’ve worked on grid modernization, then on legislative and rulemaking language. The bigger picture, if we want to hit [no more than] two degrees Celsius there is a carbon budget. It’s so exciting because for decades we’ve been trying to get big things to happen. The excitement I have for the action and policies and funding of tech assistance at the local level and this Inflation Reduction Act [IRA] could help co-ops like Sangre de Cristo.”
“I’m frustrated with how passive the current board sounds. I’m not asking to exit the Tri-State agreement tomorrow… but there is $9 billion in the IRA. What if we could use some of that money to finance our withdrawal fee? There is no sense of creativity. We can do better.”
Ark Valley Voice asked for clarification on his call for SDCEA to increase the local five percent non-carbon energy production and if what he meant was he wants to see solar panels on every house.
“So the five percent — I’d never force anyone to put anything on their own house — maybe another framing to that question is no technology is perfect, everything has a pro and a con… for example, big wind turbines in our valley would be damaging to the view shed. So it wouldn’t be a good thing even if they work. It’s not like solar and wind walk on water, but there are a couple advantages of generating some more power closer to where it is being used. We don’t have to build as big a transmission line. If we can generate a little bit more of our power in the valley, we don’t have to worry about building new, difficult transmission lines.”
He added that he’d talked with four or five solar installers at the Chaffee Home and Garden show and he thought that focusing on local jobs would mean that “Less of our monthly electric bill goes out of the valley … we’re not talking about going off the grid in the Arkansas River Valley. Solar is so much more modular than the larger coal plants.”
“We’re not talking about doing any of this in a year,” he added. “It’s two and three-decades of transitions – could we go to 10 percent from our five percent local production?”
Q. How is your campaign funded?
“Well, Mark Boyle and I are endorsed by and supported by AVEF (Ark Valley Energy Futures). I do not know all the sources of financing by them — it’s a combo of AVEF members and some grant funding. I made a $500 contribution to the campaign and the endorsement.”