Homer Electric Association will remain under the oversight of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, the agency which oversees the pricing practices of public utilities in Alaska.
With 31.7 percent of HEA’s members returning ballots, 2,042 voted to withdraw from RCA oversight and 4,854 — 70 percent of members returning ballots — voted to remain. Three-hundred seventy-five ballots were discarded for being improperly filled out, according to the RCA’s announcement of election results, released Tuesday.
Because utilities often have monopolies over power delivery in a certain area, changes in a public utility’s rates must be approved by the RCA’s five commissioners, with the goal of keeping rates close to the amount needed to recover a utility’s expenses.
HEA, a cooperative that is the sole provider of electricity to about 22,892 members on the Kenai Peninsula, is allowed under Alaska statute to withdraw from RCA oversight by a majority vote of its members. HEA’s nine-member Board of Directors voted unanimously on April 12 to hold the deregulation election.
This October, HEA members received ballots posing the deregulation question with their electric bills, which were mailed in six waves, the last sent on Oct. 28. Members returned 7,271 ballots, which the RCA hired an accounting firm — Thomas, Head, and Griesen — to begin counting on Dec. 8.
HEA will be able to apply for a recount within the next 10 days. Under Alaska statute, the cooperative won’t be able to hold another deregulation election for two years.
“The HEA Board of Directors would like to thank each and every one of the members for voting on this important matter,” wrote HEA Director of Member Relations Bruce Shelley in a press release. “Almost one third of the membership voted which highlights one of the values of the cooperative model, enabling members to provide direction to their utility.”
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org.