By Joe Smyth | firstname.lastname@example.org | @joesmyth
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced this week that John Gavan will serve as the next Commissioner of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), beginning January 7, 2019. Gavan will replace PUC commissioner Wendy Moser, whose term ends next month, and join Commissioner Frances Koncilja and Chairman Jeffrey Ackerman, whose terms continue until January 2020 and January 2021, respectively.
"We appreciate Wendy’s service to the PUC," said Hickenlooper press secretary Jacque Montgomery in an email, "Mr. Gavan was a consensus choice of both the Governor and Governor-elect Polis. He is an engineer and brings experience in energy and telecommunications. We believe Mr. Gavan will be an excellent addition to the PUC."
The Colorado PUC regulates electric utilities in the state, and will likely play a significant role in efforts to shift the state toward renewable energy. Governor-elect Jared Polis campaigned on a goal of moving Colorado to 100% renewable energy by 2040 or sooner, and said after the election that goal will be among his top priorities. The Polis campaign website highlighted the importance of “Appointing Public Utilities Commissioners who support consumers and renewable energy” among the ways that "We can spur investment in new local renewable energy projects."
While PUC commissioners are directly elected in some states, in Colorado commissioners are “appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate.”
“I am very pleased to have been appointed as a commissioner to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission,” said John Gavan in an email, “With a long history of involvement in the telecommunications and energy sectors, I am looking forward to working on regulatory and policy issues in these industries. It is a very exciting time in the utility and transportation space as new technologies and market forces drive a new level of change and innovation in these once staid industries.”
Gavan is the board president of Delta County Economic Development, and a board member of Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA). He was also formerly a board member of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and of Solar Energy International. According to his biography, Gavan has a degree in engineering and an MBA in finance, and served as an engineering and communications officer in the US Navy. He also worked as the IT Manager at NASA headquarters in Washington DC, and as a system engineer for telecommunications companies.
As a board member of DMEA, Gavan focused on expanding broadband internet infrastructure in Delta and Montrose counties. A recent article in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel detailed how DMEA expanded its focus as an electric cooperative to include a broadband internet subsidiary, called Elevate:
Since the launch of Elevate Fiber in June 2016 — the first customer was hooked up that November — membership has grown from a few hundred to more than 4,600. The expectation is to exceed 5,000 subscribers by year's end. Broadband options through Elevate are available at about 15,000 of the more than 33,000 meters in the network. Another 11,000 members have pre-registered for internet service once it becomes available in their area.
DMEA CEO Jason Bronec said in an email, “This appointment to the Public Utilities Commission is a great honor for John and for DMEA. It's also a testament to the vision and leadership he and our board have shown on electric utility and telecommunications issues."
Gavan’s appointment to the PUC comes as Delta-Montrose Electric Association recently filed a formal complaint requesting that the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) "exercise its jurisdiction over Tri-State as a public utility" and "establish an exit charge that is just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory." The co-op is seeking to end its contract with Tri-State, to pursue more local renewable energy projects and purchase wholesale power at a lower cost. Last week the PUC ordered Tri-State to "answer or satisfy" DMEA's complaint.
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