OPINION: Lights on, reasonable rates: Vote in Chugach Electric election

Your vote for the Chugach Electric Association (CEA) board of directors is important. If you pay an electric bill to CEA, you are a member-owner of the utility. Your vote determines who is on the board of directors. The seven-member board is responsible for making sure the utility is well-managed, the reliability is solid and the rates you pay are reasonable and adequate to keep the organization functioning well. Once a year, you have a say in the management of CEA and an opportunity to vote at or before the annual meeting.

This year’s annual meeting will be held 6-7:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, at ChangePoint Alaska (6689 Changepoint Drive, Anchorage). Your participation is important. Vote for two candidates to serve on the board of directors online by 3 p.m. Friday or in person at the annual meeting, but please vote. You can learn more about the voting process and this year’s election by watching this CEA video. If you are having trouble locating your ballot, call 866-909-3549 for assistance.

CEA is organized as a not-for-profit, cooperative organization, generally referred to as a co-op, and as such is owned by its members. It is different from other types of businesses. Enstar, in contrast, is a public utility company with a board of directors elected by the shareholders. By law, they are regulated by both federal and state agencies. On the other hand, Hilcorp, which sells natural gas to Southcentral businesses, is a private company that is beholden only to the company’s owner.

As a CEA member-owner, you should pay attention to what happens at the board level. The most important responsibilities of a board are to hire and evaluate the general manager, develop policies, and approve the budget. These are not light responsibilities. If a board is not paying attention, bad things can happen. A number of years ago, CEA members were hit with a 52% rate increase and numerous power outages caused by poor decisions by the general manager and the board. This rate increase and reliability problems were due to inattention by the board. Utility problems do not happen overnight. They are caused by decisions (or lack of decisions) that often happened three to five years prior.

There are other concerns that affect a utility. The Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) has broad authority to regulate public utilities in Alaska. The five commissioners (only four are currently serving, due to one vacancy) are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. The commission is currently struggling to keep up with its workload because it is considerably underfunded. Obviously, the Legislature should also be concerned not only with commission funding but also with the qualification of appointees to the RCA. The RCA oversees decisions made by the CEA board, so it’s also in Alaskans’ best interest to keep watch over the RCA to ensure it’s well-staffed with knowledgeable professionals who will help guide the utilities in making smart decisions.

As a member-owner of CEA, there are many ways you can keep abreast of the utility throughout the year. The utility distributes a monthly newsletter, hosts a website at chugachelectric.com, holds monthly meetings that are open to members, and of course hosts the annual meeting where voting takes place. It is important that you, as an owner, pay attention to what is going on at your utility.

CEA must work with the other Railbelt utilities — Matanuska Electric, Homer Electric and Golden Valley Electric — on transmission matters and power sharing. Decisions concerning gas supply, renewable energy opportunities, facility management and maintenance are but a few of the issues that will be before the board in the year ahead.


If you’re a CEA member-owner, make your voice heard, cast your vote today. And no matter where you live, pay attention to your electric utility in the year ahead. The decisions utilities make affect Alaskans directly — fortunately, you have a voice and a vote.

Peg Tileston has lived in Alaska since 1972 and has long been involved in public policy issues across the state. She served as a Chugach Electric Association board member from 1981 to 1991.

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Peg Tileston

Peg Tileston is a co-founder of Alaska Common Ground and currently a member of the board.