The separation of the La Plata Electric Association from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a vital issue.
Delta Montrose Electric will be free next year, and LPEA, seeking independence now, shares similar topography – high mountains, leading to pockets of windy plains and lots of sunny weather. That’s the special sauce to increase self-generation from current stingy Tri-State maximums of 5% to the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative’s goal of 100 percent daytime solar use by 2022.
Kit Carson left the Tri-State fold in 2016. Besides avoiding the social costs of accepting coal-fired power, where 1,700 of Tri-State’s 2500 megawatts of owned generation is coal, La Plata residents would derive economic benefits from self-generation. Keeping electricity dollars at home through solar, micro-hydro and wind projects make for compelling economic incentives.
Meanwhile, Tri-State wobbles under an enormous $3.4 billion debt load and insolvency is a very real danger. Member co-op contracts underpin all that debt.
While LPEA has an AA bond rating, Tri-State does not. If Gov. Jared Polis achieves 100% renewable electric goals by 2040, then Tri-State will have to wind down fossil fuel assets quickly. The majority are in Colorado.
Quickly erasing assets means debt will overwhelm the balance sheet. Huge rate increases forced by bond holders protecting their interests will usher in skyrocketing electric bills.
The financial benefits of self-generation and social costs of carbon alone are reason enough to leave Tri-State. Add in childhood asthma and adult respiratory deaths from coal generation and the push factors become all too clear.