2019 GVEA Board Candidate Climate Questionnaire – District 5

We are excited to be providing to you what we hope will be a yearly effort to engage more of the Fairbanks community in the happenings of Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA), our local electric cooperative! To that end, we are releasing the results of our very first GVEA Board Candidate Climate Questionnaire!

Normally there are 2-3 seats open for election in a given year. However, due to a candidate withdrawal, there was only one competitive race this year –– GVEA District 5, covering North Pole and neighborhoods along the Richardson Highway south to the Salcha River. (A map of District 5 may be found on the GVEA website, linked here.)

We sent out a set of questions to the two candidates of District 5 through a survey to collect their responses & communicate them publicly to inform member-owners about their positions and perspectives. We received a response from one candidate – Mark Oppe – but did not receive a response from incumbent board member, Chris Bunch.

In addition to the responses to our questionnaire, we encourage you to view the materials provided by the candidates on the GVEA website, linked below. We're grateful for the willingness of all candidates to serve our electric cooperative and steward our local energy resources!

Remember that the deadline for ballots to vote in the GVEA Board election is 5pm on Tuesday, June 11.

Q: What are your reasons for running for the Golden Valley Electric Association board?

Oppe: I’m running for the board because I believe that I can represent the interests of the members in District 5 as we attempt to deal with our local air quality issues while also controlling rates.  Beyond that, I want to see GVEA prepare for our future energy needs by advocating for greater transmission redundancy through construction of the Roadbelt Intertie and securing the sites and permits necessary for energy production capacity that we will need in the next several decades.

Bunch: [No answer.]

Q: What do you believe makes an electricity cooperative different from a for-profit private utility? 

Oppe: A co-op is different from a for-profit utility in that a significant part of its mission is soliciting input from its members and ensuring that its actions reflect members' priorities.

Bunch: [No answer.]

Q: What does cooperative governance look like to you?

Oppe: To me, cooperative governance looks like a continual process of balancing the needs and priorities of all members while being fiscally responsible with their money.  This means making decisions that take into account what the members want, but also considering what is practical and economically feasible.

Bunch: [No answer.]

Q: How does climate change & a transition to renewable energy factor into your near and long term vision for GVEA?

Oppe: Our local air quality is a more immediate concern to me than climate change.  Realistically, we are a small community with a limited economic base.  While we should be cognizant of what we can do to reduce carbon emissions (and I believe the new carbon reduction goal is a good step), I also believe that our community can't take on responsibility for carbon reduction that is out of proportion to our contribution compared to other places.  However, I also believe that the continued diversification of GVEA's fuel sources and the possible construction of the Roadbelt Intertie, which are both priorities of mine, will ultimately both help with air quality and achieve many of the goals of those whose primary concern is carbon reduction and climate change.

Bunch: [No answer.]

Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, how important will it be to you to respond to the recognized climate crisis in your GVEA governance?

Oppe: 3

Bunch: [No answer.]

Q: What ideas do you have about how GVEA should address energy efficiency, renewable energy, and carbon emissions reductions?

Oppe: We should continue the Home Sense energy audit program to help members understand and reduce their energy use.  Smart meters give us the ability to monitor our own energy use better than ever before, and GVEA should be proactive in encouraging members to do so.  I am also in favor of investigating ways to increase the incentives for members to participate in SNAP.  I firmly believe that the Roadbelt Intertie, by providing reliable transmission to areas of the state that are currently not served and rely exclusively on local generation will contribute to carbon emission reductions.

Bunch: [No answer.]

Q: GVEA is involved in a plan for a Railbelt Reliability Council.  Are you in support of such a plan?  If so, how do you see a Railbelt Reliability Council being of benefit to GVEA in terms of renewable energy and the carbon emissions reduction goal?

Oppe: I am in favor of a Railbelt Reliability Council to the extent that it will facilitate greater responsiveness and more reliable dispatch.  If this results in greater ability to use the most economical and low-emission power available, then it will be beneficial.

Bunch: [No answer.]

Q: What else would you like us to know about you?

Oppe: I'm interested in pragmatic solutions to problems.  I do not believe in holding out for ideal solutions when we can make progress in the right direction.

Bunch: [No answer.]