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Opinion: Power supplier Tri-State’s members are focused on finding solutions

We’re leading Tri-State to maintain reliability while rapidly transitioning to lower costs, cleaner power and greater flexibility.

The Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association's headquarters in Westminster. (Dana Coffield, The Colorado Sun)

In the past year, there have been significant member-driven changes, all for the better, with our cooperative power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. So, it’s deeply disappointing that The Western Way’s Greg Brophy wrongly vilifies Tri-State in his Jan. 25  Colorado Sun opinion column.

Respectfully, we believe the harsh words and rhetoric Brophy directs at Tri-State are profoundly misplaced.

Rest assured that Tri-State remains focused on its mission to deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to its more than 40 distribution cooperative members across four states, including our co-ops in northeast Colorado: Highline Electric Association in Holyoke and Y-W Electric Association in Akron.

Dennis Herman, Trent Loutensock

Driving that mission is the democratic leadership at the heart of our cooperative business model. The people of northeastern Colorado elect their representatives to each of our co-ops’ board of directors.

In turn, our directors send a representative to serve on Tri-State’s board, where each member co-op has a seat and a say regarding their power supply.

Through Tri-State’s board, its members are leading their power supplier to maintain reliability while rapidly transitioning to lower costs, cleaner power and greater flexibility.

While it’s more expensive to deliver power in rural areas, Tri-State’s wholesale rates haven’t changed in five years and its board has set an aggressive but achievable goal to reduce wholesale rates 8% by the end of 2023.

Looking further out, Tri-State forecasts that its wholesale rates through 2050 will stay below the rate of inflation, meaning in real dollars, wholesale rates will be lower in 30 years than they are today.

As a cooperative, Tri- State maintains a strong balance sheet, with a comparable amount of debt to similarly situated cooperatives. Since cooperatives cannot issue stock like an investor-owned utility, co-ops capitalize investments from either members’ equity, which is more expensive, or low-cost bonds. Tri-State’s members have directed the latter, and Tri-State maintains investment grade credit ratings ensuring a low cost of capital.

Led by its members, Tri-State’s power is getting even cleaner with purchases from 15 wind and solar projects located in its members’ service territories by 2024, resulting in 50% of the energy used by members coming from renewable energy. By 2030, that number will grow to a remarkable 70%.

Our shared mission leads Tri-State’s members to reach consensus on nearly every issue. Disagreements among members are often resolved through the time-tested democratic processes we all agreed to follow.

When the members can’t find resolution to their disagreements, it’s wrong to impugn Tri-State.

Currently, two members are at odds with the majority of the other members regarding calculating the cost for early termination of a member’s power supply contract with Tri-State.

The majority of Tri-State’s members are understandably concerned that if member contracts are terminated early and at too low of a cost, it will increase costs for the remaining members. At Y-W and Highline, we would have to pass those higher costs on to our rural consumers. That would be unfair and irresponsible to those we serve.

But as co-ops do well, Tri-State’s members have worked together to find workable solutions.

The Tri-State members collaboratively developed a methodology that determines the cost to terminate a power supply contract that is fair to all members.

That methodology was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which appropriately regulates Tri-State’s rates, and the methodology is currently being reviewed. Tri-State’s members in four states, as well as other stakeholders, can participate in the federal regulator’s review of the methodology.

Tri-State’s members also worked together to provide a more flexible membership option so that members can self-supply more locally sourced power.  

In the spirit of cooperation and understanding borne from our rural roots, the members of Tri-State are working to meet their collective needs, while also providing an equitable path for those members that want to purchase less power, or potentially terminate their contracts.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Tri-State’s transition to be lower cost, cleaner and more flexible is driven directly by its members. Our co-ops and the majority of Tri-State’s other members are working to ensure that each member is treated fairly, and that no member is adversely affected by another member’s actions.

There should be no doubt that our electric cooperatives lead from the bottom up, and that Tri-State never loses sight of those they serve.


Dennis Herman is the general manager of the Highline Electric Association. Trent Loutensock is the general manager of the Y-W Electric Association.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggest writers or give feedback at opinion@coloradosun.com.


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