COVER STORY | Rural electric cooperatives look at cutting the cord

Craig Station, a coal-fired power plant in northwest Colorado. The Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association co-owns the plant. (Jimmy Thomas / Wikimedia Commons)

United Power and the Durango Electric Association have asked the state’s Public Utilities Commission for assistance in leaving Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., the state’s largest electric co-op.

As reported in The Colorado Sun, the two groups want the freedom to use greater renewable sources, whereas Tri-State generates half of its power by coal.

One-third of Tri-State’s electricity comes from renewable sources across 43 member co-operatives in four states. Not all of that generation counts towards Colorado’s renewable energy standard, however. Under the state’s formula, 13% of Tri-State’s generation qualifies as renewable, which still exceeds the benchmark of 10%.

“Two new projects have been announced this year that will take us to approximately 45 percent by 2023: Crossing Trails Wind Farm in southeastern Colorado and the Spanish Peaks Solar Farm in southern Colorado,” said Tri-State spokesperson Mark Stutz. “We are meeting state standards in Colorado and are on a path toward meeting the state’s clean energy goals. We also are in the process of completing a renewable energy 'request for proposal' — our sixth in roughly the past decade — that is expected to add more renewables to Tri-State’s future generation portfolio.”

The Sun noted that 65% of Tri-State’s power sales occur in Colorado.

The Sun reported that two other member co-operatives have recently left Tri-State: Kit Carson Electric Cooperative exited in 2016 and paid $37 million, and Delta-Montrose Electric Association left in July for an undisclosed amount.

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