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Wholesale cooperative has coal-burning units in Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona —and plenty of debt. The Inflation Reduction Act can help. But how much?


Tri-State has partial or full ownership in five coal-burning units, three in Colorado, one in Arizona and one in Wyoming. How will it pay down the debt on these assets that have or will become stranded by the shifting economics of energy?

A member of a Tri-State Generation and Transmission cooperative had a different perspective at the annual meeting on April 5. Tri-State, he suggested, had investments that “apparently are not wanted anymore.” He suggested Tri-State was being stripped of its protective towel. Would the federal government help out on that debt?

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The question was directed to Andrew Berke, the administrator of the Rural Utilities Services, who said he had traveled to Denver in large part because he wanted to thank Tri-State for helping carve out $9.7 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act that will be earmarked for the nation’s electrical cooperatives and their generation and transmission organizations.

There would be money for operators of shuttering coal plants, Berke said, but he said he couldn’t say exactly how much or how or when.

“One of the goals of the Inflation Reduction Act is to lower the pain that these stranded assets are putting on your balance sheets. That is absolutely one of the goals.”

The IRA, he said, will give his agency – the replacement for the Rural Electrification Administration created in 1936 to electrify rural America – something it has never had before, the opportunity to extend zero-interest loans. The “products” the RUS will be offering will be designed for exactly this sort of problem. But Tri-State will still have a problem to solve,” he suggested, as the federal aid “won’t magically make this go away.”

Allen Best
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