Mountain News: Energy disagreements clear in co-op election 

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - Twenty years ago, election of directors for the electrical co-ops that serve much of rural America - including many of Colorado's ski towns - got little attention. Co-ops prided themselves in reliably delivering electricity at generally low rates.

But a third standard has been added. Challengers argue that environmental considerations of power production must be factored into co-op operations. They want more effort to dampen demand and a more rapid embrace of renewable energy, even if it costs more.

Those issues can be found in this year's elections of Holy Cross Energy, a co-op that serves the Aspen, Vail and Glenwood Springs areas. Holy Cross has been regarded as among the most progressive electricity providers, but challengers want the co-op to accelerate the pace.

In the Aspen area, real estate agent Bob Starodoj, who has been a director of the utility since 1985, argues for caution, fearing spiked costs. "I'm not ready to jump into the mainstream of green and start swimming in it, because we don't know where it's going," he told the Aspen Times . In an interview with the Vail Daily , he advised flexibility: "There might be breakthroughs in technology such as the portable hydrogen cell that may be economically viable in the very near future," he said.

Challenger Dave Munk, who designs resource programs, says the 2 per cent of the co-op's operating revenues used for such things as energy audits for members and rebates for solar panels needs to be increased to 5 per cent.

The Times notes that Holy Cross customers, who in co-ops are also shareholders, last year were asked whether they would be willing to pay more for renewable energy. About half would be willing, and slightly fewer said no thanks.

The Aspen Skiing Co. has been involved in the last three elections, either directly through endorsement of challengers or through the unofficial capacity of Auden Schendler, the company's director of community and environmental responsibility. Schendler told the Times that Aspen Skiing wants to see Holy Cross add more renewables to its mix, so that Aspen Skiing can meet its goal of reducing its carbon footprint.

"Skico cannot meet its carbon goals without Holy Cross changing its power units," he said.

But Tom Turnbull, a rancher and chairman of the Holy Cross board, says he's uncomfortable with the Aspen Skiing Co.'s involvement in elections. "I just think they have enough on their plates without running Holy Cross," he said.


Aspen voting on tax for marketing

ASPEN, Colo. - Aspen voters will be asked in November to double the existing 1 per cent lodging tax. The increase would generate $450,000 for marketing and special events. Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland called it an opportunity for Aspen to "stand behind the notion of a sustainable tourism economy."

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