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State emission goals could help LPEA cut carbon

CEO of Tri-State says co-op is working to meet new standards
The Colorado Legislature approved greenhouse gas reduction goals at the end of its session that could help La Plata Electric Association meets its goals for reducing carbon.

Newly approved state goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions could help lay the groundwork for La Plata Electric Association to meet its carbon goals.

The state Legislature approved House Bill 1261 last week, a measure aimed at cutting emissions 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 from 2005 statewide pollution levels to help address climate change.

“The state goals are extremely meaningful. Our goals might be met because of the state mandates,” said Ron Meier, LPEA’s manager of engineering and member relations.

LPEA set a goal of cutting its carbon footprint by 50% from 2018 levels by 2030 earlier this year. However, reducing the carbon footprint will likely require LPEA’s wholesale energy supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission to make changes or LPEA to seek other power suppliers.

At LPEA’s annual meeting last week, Tri-State’s new CEO Duane Highley said his co-op intends to work on meeting the goals set by the state.

“We want to be clean, we want to do it in a way that keeps costs in control,” he said.

Investing in renewable energy could help lower the cost of electricity, and Tri-State is making investments in solar and wind generation projects, he said.

However, a mix of renewables and fossil fuel generation is important, especially when extended storms keep solar arrays or wind farms from functioning.

“We should have a billboard that says, ‘Solar brought to you by coal,’” he said.

Exactly how the state will meet its new greenhouse gas emission standards is not clear. The emission rules will be set by Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission, according to the bill.

However, Highley said the electricity utilities will be expected to make major reductions in burning coal.

The Legislature also approved Senate Bill 236 last week, a measure that complements the state’s new emission goals.

It would require the Public Utilities Commission to review Tri-State’s electric resource plans, which would provide new transparency to the co-op’s decisions, said Erin Overturf, deputy director of Western Resource Advocates’ Clean Energy Program.

The bill also allows electric utilities to refinance fossil fuel power plants through low-cost bonds. The bonds are meant to lower the payments on the plants and free up funding to invest in other infrastructure, such as renewables, Meier said.

The bill also instructs the Public Utilities Commission to study how electricity transmission infrastructure could be managed differently to lower costs to consumers.

Constructing large new transmission lines needed to bring power from new wind farms or big solar arrays to consumers could be one of the major hurdles to meeting the state’s new standards, Meier said.

Building the new lines requires negotiation with private and governmental land owners which can be time consuming, he said.

The Legislature also approved other bills aimed curbing emissions this session, such as measures that increase appliance energy efficiency standards, increase energy efficiency standards for buildings and improve the quality of the data collected about greenhouse gas emissions, Overturf said.

“I think this is one of the most transformational legislative sessions that we have on clean energy and climate that we have had in a really long time,” she said.


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