Legal & Regulatory

Tri-State Advances ERP With Unopposed Settlement Filing

Colorado electric cooperative Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is proposing aid to coal communities in its service territory as part of an unopposed comprehensive settlement of the first phase of  the group’s recent Electric Resource Plan (ERP).

The company on June 27 said the filing is an important milestone in the energy transition of the not-for-profit wholesale power supplier. Tri-State said the filing, in Phase I of its 2023 ERP, still needs approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). If the plan is approved by regulators, Tri-State will begin the procurement process for new resources. The company said those resources would lead to an 89% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, and provide as much as 70% of clean energy to be used by its members systemwide in 2030.

“With the engagement of our members and stakeholders, Tri-State is advancing our transformative resource plan, preserving reliable, affordable and responsible power for our members, and helping meet the needs of transitioning communities in northwest Colorado,” said Duane Highley, chief executive officer of Tri-State. “We thank all who were involved in the settlement, and we look forward to working together to implement the plan.”

The settlement resolves all issues raised by intervening parties in Phase I of the ERP and provides for updates related to the scope of Phase II procurement, bid evaluation and portfolio modeling, and adds a demand response target for Colorado load in 2030.

Assistance for Coal Communities in Colorado

Among the provisions in the settlement are the terms of community assistance from Tri-State to support northwest Colorado communities as Craig Station, which Tri-State operates, retires its three generating units between 2025 and 2028.

“The energy industry is pivotal to our local economy and makes up such a large component of our tax base,” said Craig Mayor Chris Nichols. “We are pleased that the commitments contained within the Settlement Agreement represent Tri-State’s reinvestment in the community that has anchored Craig Station for decades.”

The Craig Generating Station has operated in northwest Colorado for decades. The three coal-fired units at the station are scheduled to close over the next few years. Courtesy: Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association

“It would be hard to overstate how truly groundbreaking this agreement is,” said Moffat County Commissioner Melody Villard. “The commitments made by Tri-State ensure that the communities are not left behind in the energy transition. We will now have reliable long-term resources to drive our own transition and determine the trajectory of Moffat County’s economy after coal. We are excited to continue to partner together as Tri-State is incentivized to bring new energy resources and jobs to Moffat County following the closure of Craig Station.”

Community assistance for northwest Colorado includes $22 million in direct benefit to the community between 2026 and 2029, with other anticipated investments providing $48 million in additional benefit to the community between 2028 and 2038. As part of the settlement, Tri-State will only solicit bids for a new natural gas power plant build in Moffat County, in alignment with Tri-State’s siting study results. Tri-State also has purchased a 145-megawatt solar project under development in Moffat County to be online in late 2025.

“We will continue to work with our employees, the City of Craig and Moffat County for years to come,” said Highley.

Advancing ERP Will Benefit Members

The settlement agreement continues to align with Tri-State’s application for funding under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) New ERA Program. Tri-State’s preferred plan would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including an 89% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with Colorado electricity sales by 2030, relative to a 2005 baseline. Under the preferred plan, Tri-State would seek 1,250 MW of renewable resources and energy storage between 2026 and 2031.

Notably, Tri-State’s preferred plan would deliver competitive wholesale rates to Tri-State’s members and meet both industry standard reliability metrics and Tri-State’s heightened “Level II” reliability metrics, which assess electric system resilience in extreme summer and winter weather conditions.

“Enhanced power reliability for rural communities remains central to Tri-State’s resource planning,” said Dennis Herman, general manager of Tri-State member Highline Electric Association, based in Holyoke, Colorado. “Tri-State’s preferred plan adds significant renewable resources while demonstrating how to deliver reliable power to its members, even in extreme weather events.”

Sierra Club Applauds Settlement

“Sierra Club is proud to join a settlement that paves the way toward replacing coal with cleaner energy resources while also saving customers money,” said Robin Everett, deputy campaign director for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “We applaud Tri-State’s commitments to support the communities of Craig and Moffat County in the energy transition. We hope that USDA views this settlement as yet another reason to fund Tri-State’s ambitious New ERA application.”

“Tri-State really stepped up to the plate with this community assistance package for Moffat County and Craig as they undertake a challenging transition,” said Wade Buchanan, director, Colorado Office of Just Transition. “This agreement sets a high standard for community assistance elsewhere in Colorado and around the country.”

“Colorado Independent Energy Association is pleased to support this settlement agreement that will expand and promote competition in Colorado’s vibrant renewable energy industry to benefit Tri-State’s members,” said Mark Detsky, attorney for the organization.

Sixteen Tri-State members and stakeholders support the settlement, including Tri-State members Highline Electric Association, Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association and Y-W Electric Association; state agencies including the Colorado Energy Office, Trial Staff of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Office of Just Transition, and Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate; Moffat County and the City of Craig; environmental organizations including Natural Resource Defense Council, Sierra Club and Western Resource Advocates; and developer associations including Colorado Independent Energy Association, Colorado Solar and Storage Association, Interwest Energy Alliance and Solar Energy Industries Association. Fourteen intervening Tri-State members did not oppose the settlement.

Tri-State’s ERP process occurs in two phases. In Phase I, Tri-State collaborates with stakeholders, prepares modeling assumptions and scenarios, and models generic resources to arrive at a preferred plan that represents the most affordable resource mix, while respecting reliability metrics and environmental and transmission constraints. The Phase I proceeding includes the involvement of intervening parties on discovery, testimony, and, if needed, a hearing which leads to a CPUC decision on the preferred plan along with guidance for Phase II of the ERP. In some cases, parties reach a settlement agreement to collaboratively address the resource plan without need for a hearing. Tri-State anticipates a decision from the CPUC on the Phase I settlement agreement by mid-September.

In Phase II, Tri-State will issue requests for proposals seeking bids for new dispatchable, renewable, and storage resources. Bids are then evaluated through screening processes and selected through portfolio modeling. Tri-State will move to acquire the resources selected in our Phase II preferred portfolio once CPUC approval is received.

POWER edited this content, which was contributed by Tri-State’s communications group.

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