Colorado ski resorts support Delta-Montrose Electric exit from Tri-State
By Joe Smyth | email@example.com | @joesmyth
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."
Ski industry trade associations focus their climate change advocacy efforts
At the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver last week, three trade associations representing thousands of skiing and outdoor recreation companies announced the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership, a new joint effort to advocate for climate policy solutions. The groups behind the new effort include the Outdoor Industry Association, Snowsports Industries America, and the National Ski Areas Association, which represents over 300 ski resorts in the US.
The Outdoor Business Climate Partnership says its goals include advocating for climate policies, and "encouraging our members to engage in the process of helping to shape and support state policies and utility initiatives to decarbonize the grid."
As part of the partnership's announcement, eight statewide ski industry associations provided some details about their priorities, and Colorado Ski Country USA President Melanie Mills reinforced that focus on state policies and electric utilities:
“The ski industry in Colorado employs nearly 50,000 people and our 23-member ski areas take the threat of climate change seriously. In Colorado, our policy team advocates for policies at the Capitol and the Public Utilities Commission to expand renewable energy, increase energy efficiency and mitigate the impacts of climate change. We will continue to engage with state and local elected officials and leaders to support forward thinking climate solutions.”
The Snowsports Industries Association also encourages its members to contact their local utility companies, and says, "It's critical now that businesses leverage their influence and economic weight to be strong advocates for clean energy - at the utility, state and federal level." And the National Ski Areas Association provides its members with a variety of resources, including "How to engage with utilities on decarbonizing the grid."
The ski industry trade associations' increased focus on electric utilities reflects some of the lessons that their member ski resorts have learned in recent years. As Navigant Research detailed, ski resorts across the country have been leveraging their role as major energy users to support the shift to clean energy.
Aspen Skiing Company says working with utilities on clean energy is "our most effective strategy"
In Colorado, Aspen Skiing Company has made progress toward its sustainability goals by focusing on decarbonizing the electric grid that supplies its operations.
While Aspen has pursued a variety of sustainability efforts, the company's 2017 sustainability report says, “Our most effective strategy to reduce emissions is working with our utilities to choose lower carbon fuel sources.”
And the company's most recent sustainability report highlighted a key outcome of that strategy.
In 2018, Aspen Skiing Company also weighed in at the Colorado PUC to support Xcel Energy's Colorado Energy Plan, which will replace two coal units with a mix of new renewable energy and battery projects and existing natural gas plants. Auden Schendler, the company's senior vice president of sustainability and community engagement, testified in support of the plan, which the PUC approved in August 2018.
Alterra and Vail Resorts have also begun to engage with utilities and regulators
The ski industry's biggest players have started to engage with electric utilities and regulators as well, bringing the influence of multi-billion dollar companies to these negotiations.
Alterra, which owns 13 ski resorts in North America including Winter Park and Steamboat Springs in Colorado, joined Aspen Skiing Company in support of the Colorado Energy Plan. Alterra President David Perry said:
"While Alterra Mountain Co. is a new company, our values are deeply rooted in the enduring commitment to preserve the mountain environments that we operate in. We believe in starting this venture on the right foot by supporting this businesslike effort in Colorado to increase clean energy, while ensuring stable energy prices. We will continue to use our collective voice to influence policy on key issues such as solutions to global climate change."
Vail Resorts also supported Xcel's Colorado Energy Plan, along with other utility industry investments in renewable energy, such as Rocky Mountain Power's request for proposal for new wind, solar, and geothermal projects in Utah.
As part of its 100% renewable electricity goal, Vail Resorts also announced a virtual power purchase agreement for a new wind power project in Nebraska, and used Xcel Energy's Renewable Connect program to contract for a 50 megawatt solar project east of Denver. The company's sustainability manager has also said that Vail plans to pursue renewable energy projects at or near its resorts.
Colorado ski resorts that buy power from Tri-State member co-ops don't have the same options
Unlike Xcel Energy's Renewable Connect program and Holy Cross Energy's Renewable Energy Purchasing Program, most electric cooperatives in Colorado don't have formal programs aimed at providing renewable energy for major customers. That can create challenges for companies seeking to power their operations with renewable energy, as Mountain Town News reported about Wolf Creek Ski Area's efforts to bring a solar power project online in the nearby San Luis Valley:
In the telling of [Wolf Creek owner Davey] Pitcher, he forced the hand of his local electrical supplier. Frustrated by the lack of apparent interest from the co-op, he says, he began talking with Solar City, a major developer, about building a solar farm to directly supply the ski area. It wasn’t a bluff, he says, nor was it his preferred option. For one thing, he would have had to pay the co-op for use of transmission lines, what is called a wheeling fee.
Tri-State's largest member co-op, United Power,is seeking to change Tri-State's bylaws to provide member co-ops with more flexibility to partner with major customers on renewable energy projects. When United Power presented the idea to Mountain Parks Electric last month, one topic of discussion was the possibility that Winter Park Ski Resort or an outdoor industry company may want to pursue a local renewable energy project.
Several other Colorado ski resorts are members of other co-ops that buy power from Tri-State, and some are exploring renewable energy projects. Telluride Ski Resort, which buys power from San Miguel Power Association, says a “Renewable energy feasibility study underway with Mountain Village to study options for utilization of solar, hydro and wind power resources.”
Still, a recent New York Times op-ed explains, it's not yet clear how engaged the broader ski industry will be in efforts to decarbonize the grid and other climate policy efforts. As Aspen Skiing Company's Auden Schendler put it, “The question now is what kind of resources and staffing these trade groups will put behind these efforts.”
Colorado Sun: Flexing new political muscle, the outdoor industry unites for a historic push against climate change
Associated Press: Outdoor retailers expand political fight with climate push
Colorado Ski Country USA: State Ski Trade Associations Unite Behind Climate Action
Navigant Research: US Alpine Resorts Leveraging Their Power for Climate Solutions
Companies’ 100% renewable energy goals are getting results in Colorado
Clean Energy Means Business Summit highlights renewable energy opportunities and challenges in rural Colorado
Auden Schendler testimony on Xcel Energy Colorado Energy Plan
Colorado Politics op-ed: Colorado's outdoor-rec economy depends on the fight against climate change
New York Times op-ed: Ski season is shrinking. Yet the people who love the sport aren’t doing enough to stop climate change
Basin Electric faces growing pressure on coal from co-ops, insurers, and banks
Tri-State: Moving a cooperative power provider from coal to clean energy
Tri-State will replace coal plants with a gigawatt of new wind and solar
United Power and La Plata Electric ask Colorado Public Utilities Commission to determine Tri-State exit fee
Colorado Rural Electric Association spent electric cooperatives’ money supporting Republican politicians
Colorado Public Utilities Commissioner questions "whether or not Tri-State has been candid with us"
Rural America could power a renewable economy - but first we need to solve coal debt
Tri-State explores FERC rate regulation to limit state oversight
Poudre Valley Electric sets "80 by 2030" carbon free goal
Guzman Energy proposal would finance retirement of Tri-State coal plants, add 1.2 gigawatts of new wind and solar power
Colorado Public Utilities Commission will oversee Tri-State resource planning
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
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