Last month, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association began running its latest advertising campaign, which tells electric cooperatives they are "Better Together" with Tri-State.
But during one co-op board meeting, it became clear that Tri-State had not received permission to use the co-op's name and logo on the advertisements, and Mountain Parks Electric asked Tri-State to stop running ads that used the co-op's name.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association will hold its annual meeting during the first week of April, where member co-ops are expected to approve changes to Tri-State’s bylaws. But this year, members of the 43 electric cooperatives that buy power from Tri-State won’t be allowed to attend.
Emails from Tri-State’s CEO and board president provided inconsistent explanations for why members would not be allowed to attend the annual meeting.
In an email this week, Tri-State CEO Mike McInnes claimed that co-op members wouldn’t be allowed to attend “because of the growth we continue to have."
I am both sorry and thrilled that we are needing to start limiting the attendance at our Annual Meeting because of the growth that we continue to have. In the past, we were able to be more flexible with the attendance and as you mentioned, you were able to attend.
But an email from Tri-State Board President Rick Gordon to a Tri-State member co-op director made no mention of any space constraints, and instead bluntly stated “Our Annual Meeting is not a public meeting.”
The 43 electric cooperatives that buy power from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association are likely to approve changes to Tri-State's bylaws that would allow for new types of contracts between the co-ops and the wholesale power provider. In advance of the expected official vote on the bylaws amendments during Tri-State's upcoming annual meeting on April 1-4, the co-ops showed support for the proposal at a special meeting Tri-State held on March 6.
In its 2018 10-K that was recently filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tri-State said: "At a special meeting of our Members held in March 2019, our Members discussed the proposed amendments to the Bylaws and support such amendments."
Tri-State's 10-K also makes clear that the changes to the bylaws won't lead directly to new types of contracts, but instead would "permit our Board to establish such additional classes of membership and the rights and privileges of the members of those additional classes."
A copy of the proposed bylaw amendments also shows that they would allow, but not require, the Tri-State board of directors to create new membership classes. Those other membership classes are also not defined by the bylaw amendments.
A group of more than 20,000 family farmers in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming is calling on Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association to provide more flexibility for its member co-ops and to "re-tool its existing resource plan so it calls for investment in clean, affordable, reliable alternatives."
The resolution from Rocky Mountain Farmers Union notes that energy costs account for 7% of its members' expenses on average, and highlights how "dramatic changes in technology and market conditions have driven the cost of renewable energy generation sources well below carbon-based resources."
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Dale McCall called on Tri-State to reduce costs and respond to customers' demands, just as its members must:
“Farmers and ranchers work within razor thin margins to make ends meet. We have to think strategically to reduce our cost-of-production, be flexible in how we invest inputs and constantly react to the demands of our customers – we think our energy providers should do the same.”
Electric cooperatives in Colorado push for change at Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association
Electric cooperatives deliver power to 42 million Americans, and those local co-ops tend to be well known in the communities they serve. At a minimum, people know who they write a check to each month, and some co-op members get more involved with their co-ops by running for the board of directors, attending meetings, and working to ensure that co-ops are upholding their commitments to democratic control.
What’s less well known is that most electric cooperatives are themselves members of larger cooperatives, known as generation and transmission associations (or “G&Ts” within the industry). These generation and transmission associations own and operate large power plants and deliver that power to local electric cooperatives, which in turn distribute electricity to homes and businesses across the United States.
Generation and transmission associations aren’t often well known because they don’t show up on electric bills. But they can have a major impact on local electric cooperatives’ power supply, rates, and even a co-op’s ability to respond to its members concerns.
Map of generation and transmission associations by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
A wholesale power provider for 13 Colorado cities and towns generates most of its power from coal - but will that still be true in 2030?
That's one of the key the questions raised in a report published last month by Sustainable Development Strategies Group, "A Renewable Energy Future for Colorado Communities Served by the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska."
The report examines the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN), which sells wholesale power to dozens of towns and cities in Nebraska, Wyoming, Iowa, and Colorado. Sustainable Development Strategies Group (SDSG), a non-profit research group based in Gunnison, Colorado, focused on the 13 municipalities in Colorado that buy power from MEAN. The report examines MEAN's power supply mix, policies, and contracts in the context of a transition to renewable energy.
One striking finding in the SDSG report: coal accounted for 61% of MEAN's resource mix in 2017, according to its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). And in contrast to major power suppliers for other Colorado towns and cities like Platte River Power Authority and Xcel Energy, MEAN expects that coal will remain a large portion of its energy mix, and even increase slightly to 64% by 2030.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has a new response for electric cooperatives that might be considering a different wholesale power provider: an advertising campaign that tells co-ops they are "better together" with Tri-State. But despite the message in the ads, Tri-State appears to have developed the ad campaign on its own, and is even placing the "better together" ads in the service territories of its members co-ops without explicit permission from the co-ops.
Tri-State launched its new ad campaign as one of its member co-ops is seeking to exit its contract with Tri-State in order to pursue more local renewable energy projects and lower rates, while other Tri-State member co-ops are also considering other power suppliers. Last month, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission ruled that it would determine the amount Delta-Montrose Electric must pay to leave Tri-State.
The discussion at one co-op's monthly board meeting suggests that Tri-State developed and placed the "better together" ads without the input of its member co-ops. At the Mountain Parks Electric monthly board meeting on February 14, Communications Manager Rob Taylor gave an update to the board of directors about Tri-State 's advertising campaign, so that the co-op could "discuss whether or not we want to use it."
"Tri-State has started a new advertising campaign, and the theme is called “Better Together” and we have to discuss to decide if it’s the messaging we want. Currently our local messaging on our commercials are energy efficiency themed. But they have some radio ads that I wanted to share with you just so you could hear what their new message is. And again we have not started using this, but we have to discuss whether or not we want to use it."
But after the Mountain Parks Electric board of directors listened to the Tri-State radio ad that ended with the message "Tri-State and Mountain Parks Electric. Brighter, stronger, better together," one board director said that he had heard the same ad on the radio that morning.
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Colorado communities and state Energy Office urge Public Utilities Commission oversight of Tri-State
Reports examine the impacts of Tri-State's high wholesale power costs
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US Congressional Committee requests details of Tri-State funding to anti-Clean Air Act group
Renewable energy projects stalled in 2018 among Tri-State member co-ops
Second co-op asks Tri-State to pull “Better Together” ads
Tri-State won’t allow co-op members to attend annual meeting
Tri-State expects member co-ops to support bylaw changes at annual meeting
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union calls on Tri-State to adopt flexible contracts and more clean energy
Co-ops in Colorado push for change at Tri-State
Will Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska remain reliant on coal?
Tri-State ad campaign tells co-ops they’re “better together”
La Plata Electric concerned Tri-State debt will lead to higher rates
Colorado Public Utilities Commission asserts jurisdiction over Tri-State
More Colorado co-ops announce clean energy goals
Ski industry climate change efforts shift to electric utilities and their regulators
Public Utilities Commission rejects Tri-State motion to exclude Colorado Energy Office from exit charge case
Tri-State claims that co-ops "have intervened on Tri-State's behalf at the PUC” don’t add up
Colorado state legislators urge Public Utilities Commission to determine Tri-State exit charge
United Power says Tri-State policies are turning away large customers
Next PUC Commissioner John Gavan "consensus choice" of Governors Hickenlooper and Polis
Tri-State policy change discourages battery projects in rural Colorado and New Mexico
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United Power seeks solutions to "increasingly outmoded G&T business models"
Clean Energy Means Business Summit highlights renewable energy opportunities and challenges in rural Colorado
Governor-elect Jared Polis says moving Colorado toward more renewable energy will be a top priority
Electric cooperative officials discuss cheap renewable energy and an “eroding monopoly”
Delta Montrose Electric members vote for new financing options, supporting a potential buyout of Tri-State contract
Poudre Valley Electric requests Tri-State policy changes and fuel mix study
Holy Cross Energy plans to shift away from coal, aiming for 70% renewable energy
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Poudre Valley Electric and Xcel Energy Colorado President win national awards from Smart Electric Power Alliance
Latest coal plant subsidy proposal could hit electricity bills in the West
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Senator Heinrich highlights “frustrations in New Mexico” with Tri-State’s limits on local solar
Moody’s report shows Tri-State’s coal plants are more expensive than new renewable energy
Tri-State’s limits on local energy development are a growing problem for co-op members
Governor Hickenlooper discusses Tri-State at the Climate Leadership Conference
Bids for Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan include a proposal for the world’s largest battery
New wind and solar power in Colorado is now cheaper than existing coal plants
Companies' 100% renewable energy goals are getting results in Colorado
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