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RBC | In a press release issued late last week, Tri-State reflected on its achievements in 2020 and upcoming efforts for 2021 and beyond, as it marks the one-year anniversary of its Responsible Energy Plan (REP), the most transformative change in the 68-year history of the cooperative.
From the commencement of construction of new renewable energy projects, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the development of new partial requirements contract options, Tri-State has pursued a course to provide reliable, affordable, responsible and more flexible power to its 42-member distribution cooperatives and public power districts.
“When we announced our REP with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis last January at the Colorado Capitol, we knew that it would be a difficult, but achievable effort to transform Tri-State into a 21st century cooperative,” said Duane Highley, Tri-State CEO. “We accomplished a great deal in 2020, but we have more work to do in the coming years.”
At that January 2020 announcement, Tri-State unveiled six new renewable energy projects in Colorado and New Mexico, which along with two previously announced projects, will add 1,000 megawatts of emissions-free renewable resources by the end of 2023. At that point, 50% of the electricity consumed by Tri-State members will come from emissions-free renewables. Construction of the first project began in 2020.
Earlier in January 2020, Tri-State had announced retirement dates for its remaining New Mexico coal-fired power plant by the end of 2020, and its remaining Colorado coal plants by 2030. The Escalante Station in New Mexico came offline for the last time in August 2020, and firm closure dates have been announced for the Craig Station in Craig, Colo.
“The addition of even more renewable resources and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from our power plants marked a significant first step in our transition. We also recognize, however, the need to continue our support of affected communities in Colorado and New Mexico as we transformed our business,” said Rick Gordon, board chair and director of Tri-State, and director at Mountain View Electric Association in eastern Colorado.
Last week, Tri- State furthered its commitment to support New Mexico communities near Escalante Station with a contribution of $5 million to four New Mexico economic development entities. Tri-State continues to coordinate on transition efforts in Colorado, including support for communities affected by the retirement of Nucla Station and the closure of the Craig Station.
In February 2020, Tri-State’s board of directors, representing each utility member, committed to greater member contract flexibility that supports members’ expansion of local renewable energy development and self-supply, through a partial requirements contract option. Tri-State’s members collaboratively developed this approach, which will be implemented in 2021.
As Tri-State rapidly transitions to cleaner energy, there are increased opportunities to power consumer needs with low-cost, reduced-emissions electricity. Tri-State increased its support for beneficial electrification, committing nearly $2 million to extend the electric vehicle (EV) charging network across our members’ service territories, to promote EVs and EV solutions in rural areas.
In March 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued orders accepting Tri-State’s tariff filings, making Tri-State fully rate regulated for the first time. FERC regulation ensures consistent wholesale rate regulation that supports the cooperatives transition and benefits its members across the four states in which it provides generation and transmission services.
As Tri-State implements its transition, it also is striving to reduce rates for its members. In early October 2020, Tri-State set a goal to lower its wholesale rates for its members by 8% by the end of 2023. Tri-State is one of only a few utility providers nationwide pursuing such reductions in costs.
In November 2020, Tri-State announced that it would be submitting its Colorado Electric Resource Plan “preferred scenario” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with Tri-State’s wholesale electricity sales in Colorado by 80%, by 2030, from a 2005 baseline.
Tri-State Electric Resource Plan was filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Dec. 1, 2020. The preferred scenario identifies 1,850 megawatts of additional renewable generation and more than 200 megawatts of energy storage. The CPUC will consider and act on the filing, and that process will continue into 2021.
Also in November, Tri-State and other regional power providers committed to evaluating the expansion of the Southwest Power Pool’s regional transmission organization (RTO) into the West. Tri-State recognizes that participation in an RTO is essential for utilities in the region to continue to reliably and affordably transition to more renewable resources.
“Our efforts to implement our Responsible Energy Plan, which include more member flexibility and lowering rates, even during the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic throughout much of 2020, support our mission of providing a reliable, affordable and responsible supply of electricity, in accordance with cooperative principles,” Gordon said.
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 45 members, including 42 utility electric distribution cooperative and public power district members in four states that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State, visit www.tristate.coop.
PRESS RELEASE | Special to the Herald Times