Get Big Pivots

Some member cooperatives of Tri-State have craved contracts that allow them the ability to generate more of their own power. Will this idea deliver?


by Allen Best

Tri-State Generation and Transmission has filed a new plan with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would give its member cooperatives new flexibility in their own electricity.

This program, Bring Your Own Resource, will allow member cooperatives to supply up to 40% of their own power needs. They can build, own, or contract for their own energy projects.

Current contracts between Tri-State and its remaining 41 members require them to get 95% or more of their electricity from Tri-State.

The program will allow Tri-State members to individually or together assessment by a third-party evaluator for propose projects for reliability, economic, and environmental criteria. If a project passes evaluation, the

member contracts for the resource, and Tr -State enters into a supply agreement with the member for the resource output. The 2024 program cycle cap is 350 megawatts for resources coming online in, or

prior to, June 2028. To ensure reliable service, participating members will continue to take all- requirements service from Tri-State under their

existing wholesale electric service contracts.

Duane Highley, chief executive of Tri-State said the new program “increases member flexibility, leveraging the strengths of our members and Tri-State with an innovative approach demonstrating the unique value of our cooperative business model. Together, we’re pairing our members’ development of their own projects with Tri-State’s ability to reliably and cost-effectively integrate projects into our larger, multi-state system.”

Jeff Wadsworth, the chief executive of Fort Collins-based Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association, endorsed the program.

In southwest Colorado, Brad Zaporski of the San Miguel Power Association was slightly more measured in his comments distributed by Tri- State. His cooperative is “hopeful we can continue to work with our fellow co-ops and Tri- State to help ensure the Bring Your Own Resource program option provides the flexibility that our members need,” he said.

Tri-State said it expects a response from FERC within 60 days, although keep in mind that the last such program application dragged on for several years.

During the last 10 to 15 years, a growing number of members have wanted more flexibility in their ability to develop local generation or, in some cases, to procure electricity from other sources. During that time, three members have left, and in the last two years three more have declared their intentions to leave.

An effort was launched in 2020 to give members more flexibility. That produced a filing with FERC.

Three members expressed interest in the program initially, including La Plata Electric, and three more in 2022 expressed interest in 2022, including Mountain Parks Electric. They were cumulatively allocated a 300 megawatts of self- supply capacity.

La Plata had even signed a provision contract that would have given it the ability to procure 50% of its electricity from a new organization while developing its own

electricity, somewhat similar to what Kit Carson had done.

It didn’t happen – and La Plata and Mountain Parks are now scheduled to leave.

What went wrong?

From the perspective of Tri-State, United Power – which did not seek a partial requirements contract and which on May 1 left Tri-State – threw a monkey-wrench into the proceedings with a FERC filing in opposition. From a comment I heard from a former coop CEO, that was correct. From Tri-State’s perspective, United filed this objection even though it did not plan to participate and, by 2022, had said it was leaving Tri-State altogether.

With a lengthy review process at FERC, Tri- State decided the most expedient path forward was to start from scratch. This is the result.

Is it truly better? Undoubtedly the story will lie in the details. Tri-State Watchdog Eric Frankowski, director of the Western Clean Energy Campaign, expressed skepticism.

“Project proposals will be evaluated based on resource planning variables that include the impacts on Tri-State’s bulk system operations. With the economics of any arrangement a key factor, it puts Tri-State firmly in the drive seat,” he said in a written statement.

“Until members have unconditional ability to supply 40% of their own power, untethered from the all-requirements contracts, “it’s mostly window dressing.”


Allen Best
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