2 Rural Colorado Utilities Take Tri-State Complaints To State Regulators

Nate Minor
The Craig Station power plant features three generating units, all of which are fully or partially owned by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Unit 1 will be retired by the end of 2025.

Two rural Colorado energy cooperatives want state regulators to step in over disagreements they have with power provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission. 

United Power and La Plata Electric Association want to provide cleaner, lower cost electricity to customers. But they’re currently limited by their contract agreement with Tri-State to generate just 5 percent of renewable power locally. They’ve asked state regulators to step in and help them negotiate an exit fee from their current Tri-State agreements.

“We have customers that are asking for these changes today, and we really want to find a solution to meet their needs. That’s our duty,” said Meghan Dewey, Member Engagement Officer at United Power. 

At the center of the dispute is how electricity models for the rural West are changing. It used to be that member cooperatives like United Power and La Plata signed agreements with power providers for decades, locking in cheap prices from fossil fuel plants. Dropping renewable prices have changed this picture. 

“As our members currently consider contract options for more flexibility, including additional local renewable energy development, and as Tri-State actively transitions to cleaner resources, we must approach all contract issues in a coordinated, informed and thoughtful manner,” said Tri-State Board Chairman Rick Gordon in a press release.

That process has become irksome to United Power and La Plata Electric. 

Right now, Tri-State generates about one-third of its power mix from wind and solar for its 43 member cooperatives across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. Earlier this year it announced plans to incorporate even more renewables into the power mix. 

At least two other Tri-State member cooperatives have successfully exited their contracts with Tri-State in pursuit of lower cost renewable electricity. Kit Carson Rural Electric exited its contract in 2016. Delta-Montrose Electric Association ended its contract earlier this year.