To the editor: I’ve known Gary Newman for most of his 49 years here in Fairbanks. He and his wife, Chena, have raised their two sons here and chose to retire here as well. He has always been very community oriented and continues to serve us at GVEA.
I’ve been surprised by some of the complaints I’ve seen in these pages, suggesting he is to blame him for our rates “in recent years” becoming some of the “highest in the country.” Our rates have been among the highest in the country for a long time. I attribute this to our high use of oil for generations.
Our addiction to oil began decades ago, and neither Gary nor any of our current directors can be blamed here. He has actually been criticized for seeking to stabilize energy costs from a fuel which cost we have no control over. Note the recent increase in the cost of gasoline for an example.
Any plan that doesn’t significantly reduce our use of oil will keep our rates high. Currently, we have to use oil to generate 36% of our power. Oil is by far our most expensive source.
We also get 43% of our power from three coal-fired plants: Healy 1 built in 1967, the challenged Healy 2 plant and the privately-operated Aurora plant in 1970.
With the aging Healy 1 and Aurora plants and the trouble filled history of Healy 2, we must plan for their eventual replacement. Gary Newman and the entire GVEA board is to be commended for looking at whatever generation can economically carry us into the future and yet is being called out for it.
If any of the three coal fired plants fails or goes out of service for any reason, the gap they leave will have to be filled with oil-fired generation. Recent increases in the cost of energy on your bills are an example of exactly this. We better be prepared for that occurrence or our electrical bills will be downright stunning.
District 4 members, I encourage your vote for Gary Newman for the GVEA board.