In the late 1980s, United Power overcame a competitive territory war and takeover bid from Public Service Company of Colorado, now Xcel Energy. The rocky battle led the cooperative to reevaluate its service and commit to trimming rates and delivering more reliable power for its members. This is the second in a three part series chronicling the cooperative’s history leading up to its 80th Annual Meeting this April.
Following a member vote in August 1987 to reject Public Service Company of Colorado’s (PSCo) takeover bid of Union Rural Electric Association (Union REA), the Colorado State Legislature urged the two electric utilities to settle its territory dispute in the interest of the public. The dispute had resulted in unnecessary duplication of distribution infrastructure over the years, which was costly to members and customers.
Three years later in 1990, the two utilities finalized an agreement that would exchange certain territories and establish firm territory boundaries. Union REA would begin serving Brighton, Ft. Lupton, Hudson, Keenesburg and the rural areas of Platte Valley. In return, PSCo would receive territory the new Denver International Airport was to be built on. The transfer closed the corridor separating the two areas the cooperative served along the plains.
With the territory battle behind it, the cooperative began focusing on resolving some glaring problems brought to light during the takeover attempt. Union REA’s Board made a commitment to improve rates and reliability using PSCo’s performance records as a measuring stick. With record performance levels and expectations aimed toward the future, Union REA became United Power, intending to help leave behind the unsophisticated image of the traditional cooperative.
The name change to United Power symbolized the cooperative’s commitment to its rural heritage while presenting a progressive utility to a new urban member-base.
By November 1990, United Power had begun serving all the communities acquired in the exchange except for a lone holdout, Brighton, which had voted to deny the service transfer to the cooperative.
A couple years later, United Power had developed a reputation of reliability and reducing rates. When PSCo approached the Brighton city council again in 1992, United Power members were paying 6 percent less than Brighton residents served by PSCo.
As the cooperative and PSCo worked to move the transfer forward, United Power made dedicated efforts to educate Brighton residents and answer questions concerning service, reliability and cost of power to bolster its image as a cutting-edge power supplier. United Power assured residents it would track outage and restoration times, guarantee reliability factors as strong or better than PSCo and pledged to freeze rates for two years if the transfer was approved.
In 1993, United Power finally welcomed Brighton and its residents to the cooperative family.