From time to time, we publish opinion columns on conservation issues of interest to the citizens of Los Alamos, White Rock, and surrounding communities. This column is an interview with Dr. Carrie Walker, who joined the Board of Public Utilities on July 1. Because the BPU controls county policy on issues such as water & energy conservation and climate change, and it manages infrastructure throughout our open space, we are excited to see a young, ambitious progressive like Dr. Walker joining the board.
This interview was conducted by e-mail. It reflects Dr. Walker’s opinions, not necessarily those of the board.
Can you give us a brief biography?
I’m originally from Oxford, Mississippi, a small college town. I have a Ph.D. in physics from North Carolina State University. I started coming out to Los Alamos regularly as a graduate student to do experiments at the accelerator facility. I finally moved out here for good about six years ago, and I now live here with my husband, Bryan, and our son, Ethan.
Why did you apply for the Board of Public Utilities?
I got interested in the work of the board when I first read that the county had adopted the goal of being a carbon neutral electricity provider by 2040. I thought to myself that it would be great to be a part of making that happen. I believe we are really fortunate to have county-owned utilities, and we have a responsibility to manage those resources wisely.
What do you think makes Los Alamos special?
People here are passionate: passionate about science, the outdoors, history, and especially their community. I spent several years constantly moving around from place to place, and I can say that no other town I’ve lived in has had such a great sense of community. The natural beauty of the outdoors here is also pretty fantastic!
What do you think the BPU and DPU are doing well?
I think the DPU has made great progress over the last several years in making their services much more reliable. I remember what power outages in the summer used to be like even just five years ago. I am also impressed that the board and the DPU have been aggressive in starting their strategic planning for the carbon neutral 2040 goal. It’s a very exciting time for the utilities.
What opportunities for more clean energy do you see for Los Alamos?
We have a number of options available to us that the DPU has started exploring. Each option comes with its own advantages and challenges. We already get hydro power from both Abiquiu and El Vado, and we can continue to try and maximize on those sources in the future. Building more solar capacity along with storage is one very attractive option, though it will require us to find suitable land for it, which isn’t trivial. And the county has also shown interest in a small modular nuclear reactor project, in which the plant would be located elsewhere, and we would own a share of it.
What do you hope the BPU will be like once your five years of service are complete?
I hope that the utilities will have a clearer vision of what a carbon neutral portfolio looks like for Los Alamos County. I’d also really like to see White Rock have a new wastewater treatment plant.
Is there anything else you’d like citizens of Los Alamos and White Rock to know about you or your plans as you begin your term?
The county’s carbon neutrality goal is an ambitious one, and it will require that the board and the DPU communicate well with the public and get feedback at every step of the process. So I hope to hear a lot more from residents about what kind of energy future they want to see for Los Alamos.