Community Volunteers Seek to Bring Cheaper, Cleaner Power to IREA
Volunteers are working to bring cheaper, cleaner power to residents living in the territory of Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) by supporting three candidates in this spring’s elections who seek to change IREA.
The electric co-op is the state’s largest, serving more than 154,000 customers spread across 5,000 square miles in parts of 10 counties to the east, west and south of Denver. Ballots will be mailed March 25th and must be returned (in the mail) by 5 p.m. April 23rd.
The nonpartisan citizen effort to elect new leaders of the member-owned co-operative springs from an effort to bring savings to IREA members now that renewable energy has dropped in price dramatically. Solar energy is now half the cost of coal at IREA, but current leaders locked members in to $230 million in debt for a coal plant. Additionally, backers of the reform effort seek to bring more openness and transparency to the governance of the co-op.
Candidates backed by the Change IREA citizen volunteers are all business leaders with extensive technical expertise in matters that can help the utility navigate increasingly complex technical issues.
District 7 - Includes Parker and Stonegate
Candidate: Michael Edwards
Dr. Michael Edwards is the founder and CEO of the data analytics company, Bioinfo Solutions LLC, where he specializes in extracting wisdom out of a sea of information. A native of Colorado, he received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from Colorado State University, his master’s degree in Human Biochemistry and Genetics from the University of Texas, and his doctorate in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin. He has been an author on over 30 peer-reviewed research publications that cover everything from cancer genetics to pulmonary disease. He is involved with spreading science and math education at all levels, and gives lectures on genetics and data science to the general public, high school students, and anyone who visits his YouTube channel, “Michael Edwards Bioinformatics”.
As the father of two teenage girls, Michael is passionate about renewable energy and the promise it holds in protecting the environment for future generations. He has lived in District 7 for the past 13 years, where he serves as Vice Chair on the Parker Cultural and Scientific Commission and organizes/hosts the Parker Arts Lecture Series (past 6 years) and emcees the annual Parker Honey Festival (past three years). He is also an assistant coach with the Parker combined boys high school rugby football club (Titans RFC) where his team took 3rd place in state at the end of their last full season. As an IREA board member Michael plans to incorporate residential solar into the grid to lower costs for all and to improve stability and security through de-centralization. He also plans to remove the bogus “Load Factor Adjustment” charge IREA institutes against new residential solar connections to discourage its members from generating their own energy.
Michael Edwards, Ph.D.
CEO, Bioinfo Solutions LLC
Parker, CO USA
District 3 – Includes Larkspur, Palmer Lake, Perry Park, Woodland Park, Lake George, Como
Candidate: Kevin Bierbaum
Kevin Bierbaum has worked as a clinical chemist for the Centers for Disease Control specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention. He is a science-based thinker and supporter of renewable reliable energy. As a Colorado School of Mines graduate, his knowledge of complex science, economics and engineering challenges will be invaluable in handling IREA’s coal plant problem and this extraordinary period of change in the electricity industry. He is known for his abilities to manage complex research, communicate effectively and implement new ideas that increase efficiencies and improve quality.
Kevin grew up in District 3. He is a Larkspur Colorado native who is well accustomed to the rural lifestyle of the area. His experience in Larkspur has fostered a passion for his community and a drive to build for the future. Kevin experienced firsthand the evacuation caused by the Hayman Fire, mid-winter power outages during mountain blizzards, and damaged electronics during summer thunderstorms. He has experienced directly cost increases and restrictions imposed by IREA limitations on solar panels on his home.
Kevin deeply understands the need for affordable and reliable utilities servicing the communities surrounding Pike and San Isabel National Forest. As an IREA board member Kevin plans to enhance his community's energy independence through the support of sound energy policy. He looks forward to tackling problems facing the IREA organization and its customers with applied science and the common sense of a long-term resident. Kevin will pursue energy policy that reduces the community debt taken on by the current board and instead provides its customers with cost effective, reliable, clean energy.
DISTRICT 5: Includes Elizabeth, Kiowa, Ponderosa Park, The Pinery
Candidate: Scott Graber
Scott Graber moved to Colorado in 1970 to attend a trade school and earn a degree in Drafting. Scott worked at several local panel fabricators in the Denver area. He worked his way up – from lead man to foreman, and finally to project manager for contracts of more than $5 million. While working full time, Scott borrowed books from the library to study electrical engineering. In 1988 he started his own company, which is now known as Graber Design, LLC.
In his company Scott designs, builds, tests, and installs custom industrial control panels and systems for many different companies and manufacturers across the United States. His company has made hundreds of heater control panels with snow detectors for keeping the switches free and clear of ice and snow for many of the railroads. What helped him build a successful company was to take a customer's idea from the design stage all the way through to a finished system. Working with large and small companies has taught Scott how to deal with people from common workers to corporate CEOs.
Scott has lived a few miles north of Elizabeth since 1997 with his wife of 40 years, and that’s where he raised my son and daughter. He is a blue collar worker with knowledge derived from books and life - and doing things that make you think beyond what you know. He has rebuilt car engines, wired houses, and remodeled numerous kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. One of his joys is to take apart broken things to see how they work and fix them if possible. After researching green energy, he chose to purchase parts for a 7.8 KW photovoltaic solar system and install the complete system on his barn roof in 2017. This was a very fulfilling project and installing solar is well worth the money and effort. When done, you can see that you are helping the environment and lowering your power bill.