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Co-op seeks to change Tri-State rules to boost renewable energy buying power

LPEA receives letter from United Power
United Power, the largest Tri-State Generation and Transmission co-op, wants to work with other co-ops to change restrictive Tri-State rules on renewable energy.

A Front Range electrical co-op is asking La Plata Electric Association for help in changing the restrictive rules imposed by electrical wholesale supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Tri-State is owned and governed by its 43 members, including LPEA, and those members can vote to change how Tri-State is managed.

United Power, a co-op in the Denver-metro area, sent letters to all of its fellow co-ops inviting them to discuss possibly changing Tri-State’s bylaws to allow co-ops to purchase more power from sources outside of Tri-State, said Troy Whitmore, a United Power spokesman. All Tri-State co-ops are required to purchase 95 percent of their power from Tri-State.

United Power, the largest of the Tri-State co-ops, would like the freedom to purchase more power from locally generated renewable sources, although it would like to continue purchasing some of its power from Tri-State, Whitmore said.

LPEA intends to work with United Power on plans to change the bylaws, said Ron Meier, manager of engineering and member relations.

LPEA formed a committee this fall to explore alternatives to Tri-State power; the committee expects to present its findings early next year.

United Power would like bylaw changes to be voted on at the Tri-State annual meeting in April, Whitmore said. The Tri-State board can place bylaw changes on the ballot or a minority of the co-ops can submit a petition to put the changes on the ballot, he said.

“We certainly have interest from several co-ops already, but it’s pretty early in that process,” he said.

One of United Power’s “grave” concerns is the cost of power provided by Tri-State, which is significantly more expensive than the power provided by Xcel Energy, one of the co-op’s competitors, according to United Power’s letter.

United Power is interested in purchasing enough of its energy from outside sources to significantly bring its costs down, Whitmore said.

In response to questions about United Power’s letter, Lee Boughey, a spokesman for Tri-State, said: “Our wholesale rates have remained stable four of the last five years, will not increase next year and are forecasted to remain stable in the years to come.”

The letters that were sent to the co-ops invited them to contact United Power to further discuss the issue.

“This isn’t an ‘us’ vs ‘them’; it’s a discussion of where the industry is going, how all members can remain financially whole, how members can gain more flexibility in their power supply, and how Tri-State can remain relevant and responsive to its members,” the letter states.

United Power’s letter was published by cleancooperative.com, an online news outlet specializing in rural electrical co-ops. The online publication shared it with The Durango Herald.

mshinn@ durangoherald.com

United Power Letter (PDF)

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