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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other parts of the state, the member-owned energy co-op has dealt with change, proposed a rate unbundling that has been withdrawn for now, and has begun a national search for a new co-op CEO.

Mark Boyle. Courtesy image.

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 Mark Boyle, who is running for the director district of Rural Chaffee/Lake County:

Q. What should the members know about you and where you’re from?

“I wanted to get out of Denver when I retired. I was in charge of the Bureau of Reclamation Tech Services Center — leading people who service the power plants across the U.S., the safety of dams group, and the very large hydraulic laboratory.

I’m a skier and tried to find a place in Summit and Eagle, but then I started skiing at Monarch. It’s perfect. We spent the night here and having come from the largest irrigation group in the country, I knew a lot about water. So since this is a high-altitude desert, we started shopping for acreage with a water right. We bought the Morgan Homestead in 2012 and finished our house in the past few years.”

“I’m an avid gardener and we bought this 14 acres, added a grow house —  we call it La Posada Farms — and we’ve got a couple of tenants. One who farms and runs fruit and vegetable stands at the Salida [Farmers] market and Mountain Elements Composting. Soon we’ll have chickens and we’ll have an egg kiosk. I grow hay and I have a horse-boarding business so you could say I use a lot of energy.”

Q. So what is it you want to accomplish — what’s your plan of action?

“It’s what are we doing to move off the fossil fuels that most of us agree is part of the problem for climate change. This election, we all have the same platform … renewables, better communications, it’s not like there is a difference. Their message has changed dramatically… I don’t think anybody on that board is a bad person – they are wonderful citizens who stepped up … Joe [Redetzke] has the best interest at heart of what he thinks is the best route.”

“But I think [he is] grossly influenced by the past. We as a co-op and we as individual members of our community can’t make a dent in the effort to move off fossil fuels — that’s what we need to get past the five percent local [carbon free energy production].”

“This is one of the bigger problems we face — our challenges are not technical, tech is here, it’s been getting better, been here for 20 years –like virtual generation plants. I think our challenges are institutional. It is contractual and cultural in SDCEA that we can’t change that contract — that we shouldn’t get out of Tri-State. I’m not saying that. My  platform is reliability and affordability and let’s keep it local.”

“They changed the payout for solar – doubled it,” he added. “Yes some money needs to flow back to support the grid and the subsidy for solar will have to wind down sooner or later. But solar in rooftop — lots of us bought all this stuff and were told it will pay off in 10 years, but [with the proposed rate schedule] the panels were 25 years … I want to put my money in something good. I call the two rate proposals discriminatory. They didn’t ask the right questions from the company that did the rate cost of service tech analysis.”

Asked for clarification about what he has in mind rather than the current five percent cap on local energy generation, he responded, “We need to get on their Tri-State board – let’s get more capability of generation in the service area — Westcliffe, Cañon City, Lake and Saguache.

We’re being asked by our members what are you doing to help move off fossil fuels; we’ve already hit five percent and now we can’t go further. Tell your constituents I’m interested in keeping an open mind when I come into the board — I don’t have all the answers, but I need to learn about the marketing aspect of power companies … what does it cost to ship through Black Hills versus Tri-State?”

Q. How is your campaign being funded?

“I hope every single member wants a completely clean slate with them, collaboration is how boards have to work. When SDCEA proposed a discriminating rate proposal, we organized and we formed AVEF [Ark Valley Energy Futures]. I’m not a board member, but I gave them a couple hundred bucks last year, and $500 this year. They are a nonprofit, they accept donations, they have been funding Jeff and my campaign.”