One of Colorado's largest electric cooperatives is concerned that it could face higher rates in the future from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, because the wholesale power provider isn't paying down over a billion dollars of its debt, even as costs increase for its aging coal plants.
In a letter to Tri-State CEO Mike McInnes, La Plata Electric Association CEO Mike Dreyspring raised concerns that Tri-State's debt could lead to increased future rates for the co-op and its members. In particular, the letter notes La Plata Electric's concerns about a portion of Tri-State's debt "for which Tri-State is receiving through rates principal and interest repayment, but is not applying the principal to reduce that debt."
Delta-Montrose Electric highlights "broad statewide support" from state legislators, industry trade associations, Colorado towns and cities, and advocacy organizations
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruled on Thursday that it has jurisdiction to determine how much Delta-Montrose Electric should pay to end its contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. The PUC ruling is a boost to the electric cooperative's years-long efforts to pursue more local renewable energy projects and try to stabilize electric rates for its members.
Delta-Montrose Electric CEO Jasen Bronec said in a press release:
“This is a significant ruling and confirms that no wholesale electricity supplier—not even Tri-State—is above the law. Tri-State talks about its ‘core principle’ of ‘voluntary and open membership’ in public. But its legal filings say that the Tri-State board can stop members from exiting by setting abusive charges with zero oversight."
In a press release, Tri-State Board President Rick Gordon made clear that Tri-State would continue to push for the case to be heard in court, instead of at the PUC:
“The commission’s assertion of jurisdiction is unnecessary and unwarranted, but is not unexpected. A private contract dispute, even between utilities, does not belong at the commission. This matter appropriately belongs in the courts.”
Electric cooperatives have shifted their approach to renewable energy amid declining prices and growing public support, but wholesale power providers are key
Three electric cooperatives in Colorado have now set clean energy goals, reflecting co-ops' growing recognition of the opportunities presented by declining prices for renewable energy and increased public support for wind and solar power development.
The latest announcement came last week from Grand Valley Power, an electric cooperative that delivers electricity to more than 18,000 members mostly in Mesa County, Colorado. Grand Valley Power established a target of 60% clean energy by 2030, which the co-op described as "one of the most aggressive environmental targets of any electric cooperative in the nation."
In a press release, Grand Valley Power noted that the "announcement comes at a time when home- and business-owners are increasingly interested in having renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions." Grand Valley Power CEO Tom Walch said:
“With cost-effective advances in clean renewable energy technology, we’ll be able to meet this 60 percent target by 2030 while maintaining rate stability and our excellent reliability standards. This is one of the best ways we can deliver value to our consumers.”
Colorado ski resorts support Delta-Montrose Electric exit from Tri-State
The ski industry is increasingly focusing its sustainability efforts on decarbonizing the electric grid, by engaging with their power suppliers, regulators, and state policymakers. In the latest move, a group of Colorado ski resorts are supporting Delta-Montrose Electric Association's efforts to end its contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and pursue more renewable energy.
In a letter to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last week, Colorado Ski Country USA President Melanie Mills wrote that the group "supports the efforts of Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) to withdraw from membership in Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. (Tri-State) in order to develop more local renewable resources and stabilize its retail rates."
The letter also notes that of Colorado Ski Country USA's 23 member ski resorts, 16 buy electricity from rural electric cooperatives. Most of those co-ops buy wholesale power Tri-State, and so face limits on their abilities to pursue local renewable energy projects. That poses challenges for some ski resorts' sustainability efforts.
Ski resorts also notice higher electricity costs, as the letter explains: "As businesses and large consumers of energy, keeping energy sources affordable is critical for Colorado's ski areas to operate cost-effectively in the future."
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