Brighton, Colo. - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) this week issued four initial decisions as part of the rate settlement proceedings between United Power, an electric cooperative headquartered in Brighton, Colo., and its wholesale power supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. (Tri-State).
On May 26, FERC Administrative Law Judge Scott Hempling handed down decisions in the cooperative’s favor on three of four issues and ordered Tri-State to give United Power significant refunds concerning energy storage resources (i.e., battery storage).
As one of the settling parties, United Power agreed to the rate settlement at FERC after four key issues were reserved and set for hearing this spring: transmission and delivery system cost unbundling, direct assignment of non-networked delivery facilities (cost causation), energy storage resources, and the discriminatory nature of Tri-State’s Board Policy 119 (BP 119) regarding community solar programs.
“These rulings are significant as they will provide long term benefits to all Tri-State cooperative and their members, in identifying and controlling system costs and assuring the costs are allocated to those who benefit,” said Mark A. Gabriel, United Power President and Chief Executive Officer. “The decision will also impact Tri-State’s claims in the contract termination payment methodology currently awaiting FERC decision, and guide the future work of Tri-State’s rate design committee as the ruling dictates rate structure, ultimately mandating more transparency to all Tri-State members.”
Under the rulings in favor of United Power, FERC determined that Tri-State must unbundle its rates into generation, transmission, and each of the six ancillary services, assuring that the costs of each element are properly identified and disclosed. The FERC judge also determined that Tri-State’s 2023 come-back filing must explain the integration status of each element using appropriate accounting and engineering data, allocating the associated costs accordingly so that facilities used to deliver electric power are properly identified and the costs allocated to those who use them known as “cost causation.” Further, it was found that Tri-State’s special policy for certain community solar programs (BP 119) is unduly discriminatory. This results from a cost-benefit ratio that varies widely depending on a member’s size. Judge Hempling characterized this mismatch of costs and benefits under BP 119 as “textbook undue discrimination.”
A split decision was issued regarding energy storage resources. It was found that Tri-State improperly charged United Power and must provide refunds from September 2019 forward. Judge Hempling specifically ruled that Tri-State cannot use board policies to manipulate the contract and filed rate terms. He also ruled that Tri-State’s inconsistent treatment of energy storage resources is unduly discriminatory, but resolution of that issue was outside the scope of the proceeding.
“The reserved issues before FERC are ahead of the rate settlement case being heard in Washington, D.C., and final rulings on these issues bring United Power closer to our contract termination payment determination,” said Gabriel. “We are pleased with the fair outcomes of these rulings by FERC and look forward to the day when United Power has more control of the power supply mix serving our members.”
United Power filed a non-conditional Notice of Intent to Withdraw from Tri-State, effective May 1, 2024, and simultaneously issued a request for proposals for up to 600 MW of wholesale electric supply. A ruling from the presiding FERC judge on exit fees for Tri-State members is expected by the end of the summer, with a final decision expected in 2023.
United Power is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative, delivering electricity to homes, farms and businesses throughout Colorado’s northern front range. The cooperative is one of the fastest-growing electric cooperatives in the nation, and in June 2021 joined the elite ranks of cooperatives serving more than 100,000 meters. The 900-square mile service territory extends from the mountains of Coal Creek and Golden Gate Canyon, along the I-25 corridor and Carbon Valley region, to the farmlands of Brighton, Hudson and Keenesburg. United Power is also a founding member of the NextGen Cooperative Alliance, which is dedicated to expanding the power supply and procurement options available to distribution co-ops and reforming the traditional generation and transmission business model. For more information about United Power, visit www.unitedpower.com or follow the cooperative on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.