Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the regional cooperative that Sangre de Cristo Electric Association and 21 other electric coops in Colorado belong to, released their Energy Resource Plan in December. Tri-State is working to update their outdated and broken business model, with the aim of becoming more competitive with other utilities in the state.
The changes they are making promise lower rates and cleaner energy for rural customers like us, and a better working relationship between Tri-State and their member coops.
Among the promises Tri-State has publicized is a commitment to reduce their carbon emissions by 80% by 2030. To achieve this, they promise to retire their expensive Colorado coal assets and invest in cheaper solar energy projects and battery storage instead.
They have also promised to allow their member coops an extra 2% for community solar development (which is in addition to the 5% that is currently allowed for local generation.) And Tri-State has promised rate reductions between now and 2030.
These are great steps by Tri-State in response to the demands of their members for cleaner, cheaper energy.
However, Tri-State does not tell the whole story in their publicity campaign. First of all, Tri-State will keep 23% of their portfolio in coal assets, including energy from coal plants in Arizona and Wyoming.
Without closing these coal plants, Tri-State is not likely to be able to meet their 80% emissions reductions goal. Especially since they also plan to aggressively invest in additional natural gas generation, which produces potent greenhouse gases.
Also, according to the Institute For Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Tri-State is planning to increase wholesale rates to members almost annually beginning in 2030 at a rate that will amount to a 55% increase by 2050.
In addition, Tri-State penalizes its member coops for generating their own renewable energy by requiring them to pay Tri-State for the difference in rates if costs come in below the contractual rate.
Tri-State should be more transparent with their members, telling us the whole story up front instead of trying to make themselves look good while hiding the ways they are clinging to their broken coal-heavy business model. We, as Tri-State cooperative members need to demand that Tri-State tri-harder.