Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is pursuing an aggressive Responsible Energy Plan to transition to a cleaner energy portfolio, while ensuring reliability, increasing member flexibility, and with a goal to lower wholesale rates.
“Our membership and board are unified in our pursuit of a cleaner, reliable and lower-cost resource portfolio,” said Rick Gordon, chairman of the cooperative’s board of directors. “We are making a strong and unequivocal commitment to transform Tri-State’s resource portfolio in a prudent and responsible manner.”
Tri-State’s Board of Directors has passed several resolutions to support the development of a plan that will guide the cooperative in its energy transition.
Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan will set goals and pathways to:
- Comply with aggressive carbon reduction, renewable energy, and resource planning requirements
- Ensure the reliability and affordability of Tri-State’s wholesale power system
- Strive to lower wholesale rates while maintaining Tri-State’s strong financial position
“Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan will define how wholesale cooperatives leverage disruptive technology opportunities to strengthen and empower members and the communities they serve,” said Duane Highley, Tri-State’s CEO. “We will be clean, reliable, flexible and affordable, and do it all within our not-for-profit cooperative business model.”
The plan will recognize the significant accomplishments Tri-State and its members have achieved, identify goals and processes for carbon reduction and renewable energy development, and identify the external policy changes needed to fulfill the plan.
Tri-State’s membership is currently considering greater contract flexibility for members, including partial requirements contracts that would allow for more local renewable energy projects.
As a cooperative, Tri-State’s members govern the terms of the cooperative’s wholesale power contracts through the board of directors. A contract committee of the membership, including representatives from each member system, is developing recommendations to the board.
“Our members are developing recommendations to make their wholesale power contracts more flexible,” said Gordon. “With partial requirements contracts, members could increase local renewables while also maintaining the value and security of being a member of Tri-State.”
A new partnership
A key part of Tri-State’s approach is an engagement with former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) at Colorado State University to facilitate a collaborative stakeholder process for Tri-State that will contribute to and help define the Responsible Energy Plan.
Located at Colorado State University, the CNEE “educates, convenes, and inspires decision-makers to create policies that facilitate America’s equitable transition to a clean energy economy.”
“My team and I welcome the opportunity to work with Tri-State in facilitating this stakeholder process,” said former Governor Ritter. “At a time when the power sector is transitioning in a dynamic way, assisting Tri-State in developing a resource plan that reflects that transition is a true privilege.”
“As a cooperative, we understand that transformative change requires understanding and engagement with stakeholders,” said Highley. “Governor Ritter and the Center for the New Energy Economy will convene for Tri-State the best and brightest to surface ideas that will inform and advance our planning.”
Nucla Station, a 100-MW coal-fired power plant in Western Colorado, will be retired in early 2020 following the exhaustion of its on-site fuel supply. The plant, which employs 35 and has been in a ready-to-run-status, was to be retired by the end of 2022 as required by the Colorado’s State Implementation Plan addressing regional visibility.
To support the community though the transition, Tri-State will provide $500,000 in community support spread across five years. Following the shutdown of the power plant, Tri-State staff will work on pre-decommissioning activities prior to a contractor demolishing and dismantling the plant.
“For decades, Nucla Station has been part of fabric of Nucla and Naturita, and we understand the retirement of the plant impacts our employees, their families and the community,” said Highley. “We will work to support the community through this difficult transition.”
Tri-State actions to date
In the past 10 years, Tri-State and its members have taken significant steps that lay the groundwork for the Responsible Energy Plan. These include:
- In early 2019, Tri-State announced it is adding an additional 104 MW of wind and100 MW of solar to its resource portfolio, which will increase its wind and solar energy by 45%. Tri-State currently has more than 475 MW of utility-scale wind, solar and other renewable projects in its portfolio.
- In June 2019, Tri-State issued its sixth renewable request for proposals since 2007.
- In 2018, nearly a third of the energy consumed through Tri-State’s members came from renewable energy. Less than half of Tri-State’s renewable portfolio is from federal hydropower.
- Tri-State is reducing its use of coal by increasingly accessing market power when advantageous, the retirement of San Juan Generating Station capacity in New Mexico in 2017, and the retirement of Nucla Station in early 2020 and Craig Station Unit 1 by the end of 2025.
- Tri-State’s Energy Efficiency Products Program, which has been in place for decades, had record levels of funding for members in 2018.
The mission of Tri-State is to provide our member systems a reliable, affordable and responsible supply of electricity in accordance with cooperative principles.