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Chugach members elect two directors

Chugach Electric Association, Inc. members elected two directors to the utility’s seven-member board of directors. Election results were announced Friday night, May 20, at the electric cooperative’s annual meeting. The meeting, held at ChangePoint in Anchorage, was the first in-person annual meeting since 2019. There were 284 members who registered at the meeting and an estimated 400 in attendance overall.

Chugach members re-elected Rachel Morse and elected Sisi Cooper in this year’s election. Cooper previously served on the board of directors from 2012-2018.

Rachel Morse Sisi Cooper

Of Chugach’s members of record—10,677 or 11.8%—cast ballots in the 2022 election. Of the members who voted, 10,383 voted electronically, 195 used mail-in paper ballots, and 99 voted in person at the annual meeting. Chugach members also approved a bylaw amendment that allows more time for members to return paper ballots in the annual election.

Acquisition highlighted

As part of the annual meeting, Acting CEO Arthur Miller gave an update to the membership on the acquisition of Municipal Light & Power (ML&P) which closed in October 2020. Miller said the electric cooperative added more than 200 employees and over 20,000 new members during a pandemic and with no interruption of electric service. He added in the first 14 months of combined operations, Chugach realized over $45 million in savings primarily through lower fuel costs and economies of scale throughout the organization.

Calling the acquisition a “huge success,” Miller noted that savings from the combined utility are ultimately passed along to members in the form of electric rates that are lower than they would be had the acquisition not taken place. He said other benefits include combining two outstanding workforces, lowering Chugach’s carbon footprint through economic dispatch of the most efficient generation facilities in Alaska, and helping Chugach prepare for the future as a larger, more resilient organization.

Alaska Railbelt Utilities and State of Alaska Join Forces to Address In-State Energy Security

Six Alaska utilities announced the formation of a working group to assess future gas supply needs and energy security in Cook Inlet. The group was formed in recognition of the expected decline of aging Cook Inlet assets; and in conjunction with recent discussions with Hilcorp Alaska, LLC, as well as the potential impacts of recently-introduced clean energy legislation.  

The utilities include: Chugach Electric Association, Interior Gas Utility, Matanuska Electric Association, Homer Electric Association, Golden Valley Electric Association, and ENSTAR Natural Gas Company. The utilities are joined by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and the Alaska Energy Authority as they collectively explore long term gas supply solutions to meet utility and customer demand.

The working group issued the following statement:

Communities from Homer to Fairbanks directly or indirectly depend on natural gas to generate electricity and heat homes and businesses. Natural gas is a cost-effective and efficient fuel that is critical to our utilities and the Alaskans we serve. In our individual capacities, we have researched enhanced energy security options, including infrastructure, renewables, and legislative support for further development in Cook Inlet.  

Today, we add another tool to our toolbelt by joining forces to address potential future challenges regarding natural gas supply in Cook Inlet. We understand the uncertainty inherent in relying on a single source to meet a significant portion of our demand. 

Our goal is to work together for long-term solutions. This requires a better understanding of each utility’s constraints and needs based on existing contracts and forecasting our collective demand growth into the next decade as well as considering additional options to meet the unique energy needs of our region. We recognize the need to be proactive and concerted in our planning.  In 2010, our collective efforts resulted in the development of the first public in-ground natural gas storage facility and supported legislation that welcomed Hilcorp’s expanded operations into Cook Inlet.

This group will work collaboratively as utilities and in partnership with the State of Alaska to ensure our ability to reliably and efficiently meet the energy needs of Alaskans in the Railbelt region over the long term.

Chugach Electric offers new EV fast-charging rate

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) approved Chugach’s proposed tariff for an electric vehicle (EV) Direct Current (DC) fast charging rate. The approved rate removes the demand charge barrier to DC fast chargers which should encourage the construction of DC fast charging stations and the use of electric vehicles by Chugach members.

With input from Chugach members and EV owners, Chugach filed the DC fast charging tariff in January to help alleviate concerns from potential business owners considering installing DC fast charging stations. Due to the high electric demand when vehicles are charging, and the relatively infrequent use of the chargers during this early stage of EV adoption, the effective per kWh charge under the standard large general service rate structure would be extremely high, which is a major deterrent to potential station owners from building charging stations. The new rate structure removes this demand charge barrier. Additionally, EV charging station owners were previously unable to charge users for the electricity, and instead had to charge based on the duration of the charging or other measures.

With the recent tariff approval earlier this month, EV charging station owners can now charge users for the electricity dispensed to “fuel” their vehicles, and they also have the comfort of knowing that if they install a DC fast charger at their location, it will be billed similar to a residential rate and, in the vast majority of cases, will only have an energy charge without a demand charge.

The timing of the approved rate is important as there will be at least two DC fast chargers installed by year-end in the Chugach service area, made possible by Alaska Energy Authority’s (AEA) funding of an interconnected EV fast-charging network along the highways and ferry terminals in the Railbelt. AEA utilized Volkswagen Trust funds and State of Alaska Energy Program funds to build out DC fast charging infrastructure from Homer to Healy. In total, 15 fast chargers and eight Level 2 chargers at nine charging stations will be installed. Additionally, the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes millions of dollars to build out EV charging in Alaska in the next five years.

Chugach supports the adoption of electric vehicles given they provide several benefits including reducing transportation carbon emissions, lower “fuel” costs for EV users not using liquid fuels, and applying downward pressure on electric rates as fixed costs are spread among more users.

To aid in the promotion of electric vehicles, Chugach offers several EV related incentives programs to help speed the transition to electric transportation. In addition to its Residential and Level 2 Commercial EV charging incentives, Chugach now offers a DC fast charging incentive program that supports the new rate.

Chugach Electric Board names Acting Chief Executive Officer

The Chugach Electric Association Board of Directors has named Arthur Miller Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Chugach. Miller has been with Chugach for nearly 32 years, most recently serving as Executive Vice President of Regulatory and External Affairs. In that role, Miller is responsible for Regulatory Affairs, Member Services, Key Accounts, and Business Development.

The Chugach Board is also continuing its search for a permanent CEO to replace Lee Thibert, who is retiring at the end of this month. Miller and Thibert will work together in the coming weeks, and Thibert will consult, as necessary, until a permanent CEO is named.

In his more than three decades at Chugach, Miller has had several key positions including Sr. Vice President, Regulatory and External Affairs; Vice President, Regulatory and External Affairs;  Executive Manager, Regulatory and External Affairs; Director, Regulatory Affairs and Pricing; and manager and analyst positions. He has extensive experience in the electric utility industry and played a crucial role in the recent acquisition of Municipal Light & Power by Chugach.

Miller has an M.S. in Economics from the University of Wyoming and a B.S. in Business from Colorado State University, Fort Collins. His appointment as Acting CEO is effective today.