La Plata Electric Association deserves credit for being responsive to member interest in increasing the amount of renewable energy in its mix.
The co-op (and the city of Durango) is in a tough spot, hemmed in by decades-long contracts tied mostly to coal-fired energy sources and a public increasingly interested in diversifying its power supply to include more clean sources of locally produced energy, specifically solar.
Since April, the co-op has held three workshops to explore the many aspects of integrating renewable energy into its supply. Board members voted unanimously to support a request to Tri-State Generation and Transmission, our wholesale power supplier, to increase the amount of locally produced renewable energy LPEA could purchase, and in a July memo, CEO Mike Dreyspring made the case to Tri-State for increasing the percentage of distributed energy from 5 to 10 percent.
Though Tri-State denied the request, Dreyspring recognized an important aspect of operating in a dynamic energy environment: “The traditional, vertically integrated electric utilities that adapt to this changing market place will financially thrive.”
LPEA is not alone in this understanding and just about half of Tri-State’s 43-member co-ops are pursuing increases in how much of their energy comes from renewable sources.
Locally, the number of interconnected and net-metered residential and commercial customers with solar photovoltaic systems continues to rise. As of Sept. 30, LPEA counted 1,006 residential and commercial accounts across its service area (889 in La Plata and 117 in Archuleta counties), and that includes 75 net-metered accounts added this year. Some of these installations occurred in 2013-14 through the Solarize La Plata (101 homes) and Archuleta (13 homes) initiatives led by 4CORE, the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency.
There are considerable challenges to LPEA significantly increasing how much renewable energy it procures, but there are no current limits on net-metering. The recent suggestion to study how much additional capacity LPEA’s system could support is a good one,
Those considering this option should check out 4Core’s fifth annual Solar Home Tour on Saturday. In an effort to expand the appeal and number of local net-metered solar systems, eight homes, from Tween Lakes to La Posta Road, will be showcased. After a few soggy weekends, this one is looking clear, making for a great opportunity to leave the conference room conversations behind, meet and learn from solar homeowners and professional installers, and tour some unique and stylish local homes.
Let the sun shine in. Learn more at fourcore.org.