Do you pay an electric bill? Most Alaskans get their electricity from utility cooperatives. A board of directors leads these cooperatives to ensure the lights stay on and rates are affordable. If you pay an electric bill to one of these cooperatives, you are a member-owner, which means you have the right to elect and hold board members accountable! Across the state, board members vote on issues affecting Alaskans today and for generations. Matanuska Electric Association is once again fielding conversations about a Susitna-Watana Dam. Chugach Electric Association is working on a mitigation plan for the Eklutna Dam, deciding whether or not a once free-flowing salmon-supporting river will return to the Eklunta People, who have been asking for its restoration for decades. With natural gas supplies dwindling, communities across the state must decide where our energy will come from going forward. Utility boards make critical decisions like these every day.
Issues this significant and impactful to our state, our favorite places to recreate, our food sources, and our way of life should have our input. So why don’t Alaskans engage in Utility Elections? Chugach Electric Association, the largest electric cooperative in the state, reported a record-breaking election turnout of only 11.8% last year. That means your vote could really change the outcome of these elections.
If you care about clean air and water and healthy communities, you should use your power to vote for Board Members who not only support renewable energy but are champions for Alaska’s clean energy future. If you are a member-owner of Chugach Electric, I encourage you to vote for Shaina Kilcoyne, Susanne Fleek Green, and Jim Nordlund. These candidates are committed to listening to public input and moving clean energy projects forward. It’s a month-long election; voting starts on April 19 and closes on May 19. Your ballot comes with your bill, and you can vote online at Chugach Electric Association’s website.
These elections are the most important thing that no one talks about. In an election with voter turnout rates this low, one vote can mean the difference between a coal plant and a solar farm. If you have been looking for a small step to make a massive change in your community, this is it. You have the opportunity to create a future that you want to live in; take it. Use your voice and vote. Visit your local utility cooperative’s website for information on how to vote and attend board meetings.
Rachel Christensen is the Clean Energy Organizer for The Alaska Center and lives in Palmer.