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.
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."
More corporate customers want renewable energy options. What happens when an electric utility can’t offer that?
United Power has been meeting with other electric cooperatives this month, in an effort to build support for its proposal to change the bylaws of its power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Those meetings follow United Power’s invitations to discuss its “grave concerns about key elements of Tri-State’s key generation products and services” directly with the 42 other co-ops that buy power from Tri-State.
At a presentation to Mountain Parks Electric on January 3, United Power New Business Director Jerry Marizza explained that United Power was not proposing to simply raise the 5% limit that Tri-State imposes on local renewable energy development to a higher level. Instead, the proposal for a partial requirements contract option would assure that Tri-State continues to provide a portion of United Power’s energy purchases, while allowing United Power to meet its electricity load growth by pursuing its own local renewable energy projects, or buying wholesale power from other providers.
United Power staff said the proposal would also give the co-op the ability to provide its major customers with lower rates and renewable energy options that aren’t possible with the current Tri-State contract. One example Marizza noted were commercial customers that now expect to be able to build larger on-site solar arrays to help power their operations:
“All this stuff is happening at the distribution level. Ikea - they will not build a facility unless they get to put a megawatt of solar on their roof. That’s just a fact, okay? If you want an Ikea, you’re going to have to deal with that fact. And you can’t come to them and say ‘I’d love to accommodate you, but Tri-State’s contract won’t allow me to.’ That’s not an answer, it really isn’t.”
The Ikea store in Centennial, Colorado has a 1.1 megawatt rooftop solar array.
Poudre Valley Electric and Xcel Energy Colorado President win national awards from Smart Electric Power Alliance
Efforts by two Colorado utilities to expand access to renewable energy were recognized this week with national awards from the Smart Electric Power Alliance. Xcel Energy Colorado President Alice Jackson was named “Power Player of the Year” for her role in bringing together stakeholders to develop a plan for the company to exceed Colorado’s renewable portfolio standard. Poudre Valley Electric Association (PVREA) won the award for “Electric Cooperative Utility of the Year” for its role in developing the Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm, which helped expand solar power opportunities for low and moderate income members of the co-op.
“To win this award is such an honor for Poudre Valley REA. We developed the Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm as a mechanism to serve all our members with solar energy and we’re proud to be able to deliver that opportunity,” said PVREA President and CEO Jeff Wadsworth, “Many thanks to our partners and employees who worked on this innovative project that created solar energy opportunities for all our members, and to our members for supporting us in this endeavor.”
A look at two Colorado electric cooperatives navigating the implications of solar power’s declining costs
Emily Bowie at San Juan Citizens Alliance writes about how the La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) board of directors is discussing the implications of the declining costs of solar energy. Bowie describes how the “board’s touchiest topic is how the declining costs of renewable energy (and rising costs of coal) should impact LPEA’s future.”
Some board directors are concerned about how declining solar power costs could encourage more customers to install their own rooftop solar arrays, and what that might mean for the electric cooperative.
Other board members are more focused on the opportunity for LPEA to take advantage of falling solar power prices, by pursuing its own solar projects. As LPEA director Bob Lynch put it, “I want to be part of a plan that figures out how to use solar to help all our members.”
Plans move forward for a floating solar array in Jackson County, while Mountain Parks Electric considers its own solar projects.
In Jackson County, the town of Walden’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously this week to build a solar array that will help power the town’s water treatment plant. Jim Dustin, the Mayor of Walden, said at the Mountain Parks Electric August board meeting that the project “will be unique in Colorado – it will be a floating array.” Dustin said the cost of the 50 kilowatt solar array will be covered by lower electricity bills over the next decade or two.
At the electric cooperative’s August 10 board meeting, Mountain Parks Electric board members and staff also discussed their own solar energy efforts. Among the solar projects that Mountain Parks Electric is considering is a collaborative effort with other electric cooperatives in the region and the Rocky Mountain Institute. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, solar developers have responded with offers that would deliver solar energy at a price of about 4.5 cents/kilowatt hour, less than the cost of electricity and transmission from coal fired power plants that participating electric cooperatives currently pay.
Co-op considers policy change that would doom Fraser solar project, others
Plans for a solar power array at the Fraser wastewater treatment plant would be derailed if the Mountain Parks Electric Board of Directors rolls back a key renewable energy policy.
During its July 13 board meeting, Mountain Parks Electric board members and staff discussed how the electric cooperative should respond to growing interest in low cost solar power from homeowners and towns in Grand County.
Mountain Parks Electric Manager of Communications & Member Relations Rob Taylor explained at the board meeting that the steep decline in solar power costs in recent years means that more Mountain Parks Electric members are now able to pursue solar projects that deliver electricity at a price that “beats all our rates, we can’t compete with that… With our rates going up and solar going down, it presents a real eye-opener for us.”
Tri-State executive involved with anti-Clean Air Act group since 2005
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
Colorado Public Utilities Commission orders Tri-State to "satisfy or answer" exit charge complaint from Delta Montrose Electric
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
What do corporate renewable energy commitments mean for electric utilities?
Colorado Energy Plan approval will mean new renewable energy investments in rural Colorado
Report: Tri-State could save $600 million by shifting from coal to renewable energy
Delta Montrose Electric seeks new financing options to end contract with Tri-State
Wind energy jobs in rural Colorado attract bipartisan support
Colorado Energy Plan analysis shows switching from coal to renewable energy will boost jobs and local tax revenue
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
Moody’s report: “High quality renewable resources” could help Tri-State and Basin Electric navigate rising carbon transition risks
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
What does cheap solar mean for electric cooperatives?
Colorado towns and cities are helping push utilities to embrace renewable energy
How are electric cooperatives navigating the transition from coal to cheap clean energy?
Blocked from building more solar projects, United Power shifts to community batteries
Economic reality sets in for Tri-State efforts to expand the Holcomb coal plant
Solar projects in the works in Grand and Jackson counties
Mountain Parks Electric grapples with solar