This LPEA member-owner is grateful for the progress by our board toward cheaper electricity, because our provider Tri-State’s wholesale power costs much more than open market power.
The average percentage of coal used by American utilities dropped from about 50% to 27%, beginning around 2007, when natural gas use became widespread. So why did Tri-State’s coal-generated electricity remain so high, at over 55%? Because Tri-State management insisted on clinging to its considerable coal assets, even as coal priced out of the market. In 2019, Tri-State’s heavy use of coal earned its electricity the rank of third most carbon-emitting per kilowatt, of the 100 largest domestic electricity producers.
Wind, natural gas and solar compete as the cheapest fuels in widespread use. Coal costs about twice as much – guaranteeing LPEA high wholesale rates. Despite member requests and multiple studies showing potential savings replacing coal plants with new solar and wind, Tri-State resisted fuel-mix changes.
Then, last year, the Colorado Legislature mandated every in-state utility to create a Responsible Energy Plan toward clean energy. That’s when (trumpets blare) Tri-State suddenly announced bold plans for large renewable projects. Tri-State’s savings with renewables won’t lower rates, though; they’re needed for Tri-State’s growing $3.5 billion debt. Our contract until 2050 allows unlimited wholesale rate increases, and even Tri-State projects rates only increasing until then.
I applaud the LPEA Board for seeking cheaper prices for clean energy. Please vote for incumbents Guinn Unger and Rachel Landis and newcomer Doug Fults.