by Lisa Cyriacks

Mid-July the Tri-State Generation & Transmission Board of Directors announced major changes for then wholesale power supply cooperative.

Tri-State is implementing an aggressive Responsive Energy Plan that aims to reduce carbon emissions of its generation fleet while also cutting costs and ensuring reliability.

Tri-State currently relies on about 50% coal and about one-third from renewable sources to produce the power it sells. Its member utilities are interested in cheaper and cleaner energy sources and have been critical of Tri-State. Officials for the company report that Colorado’s new carbon reduction goals and renewable energy requirements are major factors in developing the new plan.

Among the highlights of the new plan is the closing of Nucla Station in early 2020, nearly three years earlier than it committed to doing under an agreement to reduce regional haze.

Among the details of TriState’s newer, cleaner power portfolio will be a partnership with former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and the Center for the New Energy Economy, a research initiative at Colorado State University seeking to help transition the country to a clean-energy economy.

Also at its July meeting, TriState voted to place itself under wholesale rate regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Tri-State is rapidly changing to increase flexibility for our members and develop an ever cleaner and greener resource portfolio,” said Tri-State Chairman Rick Gordon. “As we transition, our cooperative will benefit from lower costs and greater efficiency by having a single, consistent rate regulator across all the states in which we operate.”

Tri-State has been criticized for its cap on local renewable generation to 5% of the area’s electricity, so much of the new plan centers around allowing local communities more flexibility to develop and build their own renewable power sources like solar arrays and wind farms.

Public utilities that are subject to FERC regulation must charge rates that are “just and reasonable” and “not unduly discriminatory or preferential.” FERC regulation of Tri-State would eliminate inconsistent rate treatment across the states. Historically, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming did not exercise rateregulation over Tri-State. In recent years both Colorado and New Mexico have exercised rate jurisdiction, which resulted in increased costs, unrecovered revenue and inconsistent rates to its members.

Tri-State will become fully rate regulated for the first time. Following the board’s action, Tri-State will file a wholesale rate tariff with the FERC. The rate is expected to become effective sixty days after filing.

Tri-State is the wholesale power provider for San Luis Valley Rural Electric Coop customers