‘Green’ LPEA

The recent election for the La Plata Electric Association board of directors seems to have tipped the balance in favor of board members advocating a greater emphasis on conservation and renewable energy. With that, however, both the “green” faction and the “old guard” face real learning curves.

For the “old guard,” the lesson is simple: LPEA is going green. And that trend is unlikely to be reversed. Given the makeup of the community and the increasing focus on sustainability, that shift is more likely to accelerate.

It is simply no longer enough to keep the lights on and the price of power low. Those things are important, of course, but with modern technology, they have also become expected. The way forward is not to trade those qualities for greener power but to make inexpensive and reliable electricity environmentally sustainable.

The “green” members of the board face what could be a more difficult challenge. They have to stay true to their mission of making LPEA more environmentally friendly while at the same time coming to terms with the fact that they are now in charge of a large, complex business with daunting challenges.

The production and distribution of electricity is hugely capital-intensive. To be practicable, let alone affordable, investments – particularly things such as power plants of any sort – have to last years. Contracts also have to be long-term. Routine fluctuations in price can be smoothed out over time, just as long-term contracts allow producers to plan better and therefore better guarantee uninterrupted supplies.

All that is true whether buying or selling. Those long-term arrangements are part of how an organization such as LPEA can maintain low costs and reliable power.

But in some ways stability is the opposite of flexibility. And with that, LPEA cannot turn on a dime.

That is not to justify inaction but rather the context in which the “greens” must operate. To further renewable energy they will need to understand the inner workings and minutia not only of LPEA but of its regulatory environment and all the other organizations with which it has ties.

In that, they will benefit greatly from the knowledge and expertise of the “old guard.” The election of Michael Rendon as board president should further that sort of cooperation.

Whether the greening of the LPEA board will excite or put off good candidates to replace Greg Munro, the co-op’s departing CEO, remains to be seen. But the chances for a top-notch successor can only improve if potential applicants see the “greens” and the “old guard” working together.

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