United Power, a member-owned electric cooperative serving Colorado’s northern front range, has been investigating its power supply options with Tri-State Generation & Transmission over the last several years, as is the fiduciary responsibility to its member-owners. As part of its investigation, United Power filed a request for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to exercise its authority to establish a just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory exit charge from Tri-State Generation & Transmission. Tri-State is a cooperative generation and transmission association headquartered in Westminster, Colorado which provides wholesale power to 40 utilities across four states, including United Power.
“United Power members deserve clean, affordable energy and we have an obligation as a cooperative to look out for the financial interests of our member-owners. We have been working for the last few years on solutions with Tri-State that would allow the co-op the flexibility to add local resources, or purchase lower cost power from other sources,” said John Parker, Chief Executive Officer for United Power. “Conversations regarding our power agreement with Tri-State have stalled and the cooperative is seeking out all possible alternatives to build in rate reductions and offer more renewable options to our energy mix.”
Power purchase agreements with Tri-State limit the purchase of additional power by United Power to just five percent of total power requirements. United Power, along with several other cooperatives, championed a bylaw change that would allow Tri-State member cooperatives to enter into partial requirement contracts. These new partial requirement contracts are an essential component of any successful plan to de-carbonize Colorado electricity generation consistent with Colorado state policy objectives by reducing United Power’s reliance on Tri-State’s high-priced, carbon-intensive power mix. Not only that, they would allow the cooperative to better meet demands for local renewable energy projects, and ultimately reduce costs for United Power members. Since the resolution was passed earlier this year, the two parties have been unable to come to agreements on proposed solutions, and recently Tri-State placed a moratorium on all partial power and buy-out conversations until mid-2020.
“By not allowing United Power to move forward in a timely manner to seek additional energy sources, Tri-State is effectively holding this cooperative and our members hostage,” said Parker. “We are seeking partial requirements and/or buy-out solutions that are in the financial interests of the Tri-State cooperative family, and mutually beneficial to the ratepayers we serve. A full disclosure of a fair and just exit package is the information United Power needs to evaluate and ultimately make effective choices for our members.”
Colorado’s Public Utilities Law gives the Commission broad jurisdiction over public utilities like Tri-State, thus United Power has asked for their intervention to obtain a fair exit price and pricing methodology from Tri-State.