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MEA Co-op Elections

What is the Matanuska Electric Association (MEA)?

The Matanuska Electric Association was established in 1941 making it the first electric association in Alaska. Today, more than 53,500 members make up the ownership of MEA which serves the communities of Eagle River, Chugiak, Birchwood, and Eklutna in addition to the Mat-Su Borough. MEA’s service area covers approximately 4,500 miles of power lines in Southcentral Alaska. If you pay electricity bills to MEA, you are one of these member-owners of the electric co-op! 

Why is important to know that MEA is a Co-op?

As a member-owner of MEA, you have the power to change the future of energy for your community. The benefit of being part of the co-op is that you can vote for members of the Board of Directors and key By-law changes, which is what governs MEA. You can also attend the monthly board meetings in person or on Zoom to keep up with monthly updates and voice your opinion.

 

The MEA board of directors work closely with the CEO to provide reliable and affordable electricity, and make decisions that can change how and where we get our power from. The board of directors is made up of four district based representatives and three directors at-large who are elected at the spring annual members meeting and serve four year terms. 

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What MEA means to the SRC Community

It is important to elect MEA board members who support expanding collaboration along the railbelt, speaking out against wasteful projects such as the Susitna-Watana Dam, and increasing engagement from member-owners like you! MEA plays a large role in the Railbelt Reliability Council (RRC) which is an effort between electric associations from Fairbanks to Homer to share power and innovation ideas.

 

 

 

Energy innovation is great but projects such as the Susitna-Watana Dam have shown us that we need responsible board members advocating for responsible renewables on the MEA board and the RRC. That is why the Susitna River Coalition has launched a program to engage member-owners of MEA across the 4,500 miles of powerline to get out and vote for good candidates in the MEA board elections every spring.

Past Elections:

2022 Elections

2022's election had an 11% voter turnout (up from 9% in the last at-large election). 51% voted online while 48% voted by mail-in ballot, and 1%  voted in-person at the Annual Meeting.

SRC did not choose to endorse any candidates in the 2022 elections, however we did hold an online forum open to the public for the candidates to answer some questions and to engage with the owner-members. Arthur Keyes won the At-Large Director seat by 56% (3,435 votes), and Mark Hamm (Incumbent) won the Eagle River District seat by 53% (733 votes). Below are their answers to some of our questions.


 

Organizational affiliation, if any:

Mat-Su resident and business owner

What is your experience with utilities in Alaska?

I have enjoyed using power from MEA for over the past two decades.

What do you want the Railbelt energy system to look like 10 years from now?

Energy use and production will be changing as new technologies appear and evolve. I believe there will be an important and concerted effort to use and promote renewable resources in place of fossil fuels. The biggest change will be the transportation sector transitioning to electric. It is important that we are prepared for these changes. We must continue providing affordable, reliable, safe, and accessible energy as the this evolution happens.

What should be the biggest priorities for Alaska energy consumers?

MEA customers should be concerned that MEA maintains a good working relationship with the other Railbelt utilities for the most efficient and cost-effective production of energy. The availability of natural gas for the long term from Cook inlet should also be of concern to MEA members.

 

What are your thoughts on the development of the Susitna-Watana dam? Is this a project you support?

I do not support it. This is a project that would cost billions of dollars and I don't believe it is viable.

 

What are the most impactful ways to invest federal funding (such as from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) to improve the Railbelt?

A second transmission line to Kenai would increase our ability to use renewables and strengthen our fragile power distribution system.

Is there anything else you would like to share with MEA member-owners?

I am a lifelong Alaskan, a farmer and business owner. I've built my farm with sustainability in mind with everything I do. This mindset carries through into all aspects of my life. I've raised my family here in the valley and I want this wonderful place to be somewhere that they will want to come back to and build their lives. Affordable, reliable, safe and accessible power plays a big role in that happening. And that is why I am running.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organizational affiliation, if any:

n/a

 

What is your experience with utilities in Alaska?

 Current member on MEA’s board, representing Eagle River.

What do you want the Railbelt energy system to look like 10 years from now?

In 10 years, I envision that the Railbelt system will be more interconnected between the various utilities, with additional power-pool agreements between the larger utilities to ensure that each power plant is running most efficiently.  Additionally, I envision that we will have more and more Independent Power Producers (IPPs) connecting into the Railbelt and selling renewable power.  During the last several years, MEA has added power to our portfolio from four IPPs (two hydro and two large scale solar projects).  Additionally, I envision the use of large-scale batteries in use by the utilities to help buffer the surges of some renewable sources. 

As electric vehicles (EV) become more common, I anticipate that there will be an implementation of Time of Use billing for residential customers to encourage the use of electricity during off hours.  This will allow plants to be more efficient and to ensure that additional generation facilities are not needed.  (Example: incentivize the charging of electric cars between 2-5AM and not when people get home from work)

What should be the biggest priorities for Alaska energy consumers?

The biggest priority for Alaska energy consumers should be the cost and reliability of our services.  Costs are kept low through continuous improvement and though working efficiently with our neighboring utilities. 

 

What are your thoughts on the development of the Susitna-Watana dam? Is this a project you support?

 I do not support the development of the Susitna-Watana dam as it has been proposed. The financial cost is extraordinary, as is the cost to the environment. The risks for such a project are significant.  There are much better alternatives that are not as risky or costly to the environment.

 

What are the most impactful ways to invest federal funding (such as from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) to improve the Railbelt?

Federal funds should be used to help cover the costs entirely of projects that would upgrade the underlying infrastructure to allow additional renewable resources to be added to the Railbelt.  For example, the Railbelt needs to have double circuited transmission lines from Homer to Fairbanks.  This will cost a significant amount and will be necessary to incentivize additional renewable resources onto the grid.  Additionally, the Federal funds should can be used to add capacity at the Bradly Lake Hydro plant and other Hydro plants that do not impact salmon streams.  

 

Is there anything else you would like to share with MEA member-owners?

 It has been an honor to serve the Eagle River / Chugiak area for the past year.  During my first year as a board member there have been no base rate increases for our members, while at the same time we have made progress on our carbon reduction plan and increased the use of renewables. We have signed an interconnection agreement with a large solar farm to be constructed near Big Lake and have integrated the Ram Valley hydro plant in upper Eagle River. I hope to continue to serve the community through reelection in 2022 and to continue advocating for reliable, safe, and cost effective power.

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Arthur Keyes

Director At-Large

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Mark Hamm

Eagle River District

2021 Elections
In 2021, SRC endorsed Mark Masteller, who won the Matanuska Distric seat. He is still currently on the board and continues to be a great supporter of responsbile renewable energy.

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Mark Masteller

Matanuska District

Mark Masteller is a longtime Alaskan who came to Palmer 33 years ago to work for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. For the past 20 years his work has been related to building science, energy efficiency, and renewable energy systems. He now teaches online for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Bristol Bay Campus where he is Director of the Sustainable Energy program. Mark was elected to the MEA board in 2017 and is seeking re-election this year. He is opposed to the construction of the Susitna-Watana Dam and is the only member of the board who advocates for a diverse, renewable energy grid in the MatSu. 

To learn more about Mark you can visit his facebook page and campaign website