It’s Time for Tri-State to #TriHarder!
Several months ago, Tri-State all but shut its member co-ops out of the development of its “Responsible Energy Plan,” leaving rural Coloradans with no voice in formulating energy policies that affect them deeply. The upcoming public engagement processes in front of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) will be essential to give rural parts of the state a voice in decisions about Tri-State's energy future.
Tri-State sells power to the majority of rural Colorado, approximately 70% of the state geographically. Tri-State's Responsible Energy Plan did not have a public engagement process and, due to long-standing transparency issues with Tri-State, rural Colorado has been disproportionately left out of decision making about the state's energy future. The AQCC's House Bill 19-1261, or the Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution, implementation process as well as the Colorado PUC's Electric Resource Plan are critical public venues to ensure that all Coloradans have an opportunity to weigh in on their community’s energy future.
Tri-State needs to #TriHarder to do its part to reduce carbon emissions as the state works to meet the climate goals set out in Colorado’s Climate Action Plan.
While the Responsible Energy Plan does include coal plant retirements that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it does not deliver the reductions needed from Tri-State to help the state meet the 2030 Climate Action Plan’s goals. Cutting emissions from Colorado's electricity sector is key to achieving the statewide goals, because reductions in the electric sector enable electrification of other sectors, such as transportation and buildings.
In January, a letter that now has 101 signatures was delivered to Tri-State's Board of Directors from rural businesses asking for 80% carbon-free electricity by 2030. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has said we need the electric sector to reduce emissions at least 80% by 2030. 70% carbon reductions to Tri-State's Colorado customers by 2030 simply doesn't put us on a path to achieving the 2030 goals.
#TriHarder to understand that Colorado doesn’t want to pay higher prices for dirty, out-of-state coal electricity when our communities could be saving money with a local clean energy economy.
While Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan took important steps to announce the retirement of Colorado and New Mexico coal plants, Tri-State still has no plans to retire their Wyoming and Arizona coal plants. Some electricity from these coal plants gets delivered to Colorado communities from out-of-state, and it is increasingly expensive. Rural Colorado should have the flexibility to power themselves with more affordable, local clean energy infrastructure. It’s not fair that Coloradans are being forced by Tri-State to buy an out-of-date, out-of-state product.
A local clean energy industry is critical in supporting local economies that are taking a hit due to COVID-19. Colorado has lost 7,277 clean energy jobs and 4,083 energy efficiency jobs between March and April 2020 due to the global pandemic. These jobs are essential in meeting Colorado's GHG reduction goals. Tri-State has a responsibility to support the clean energy industry to protect our environment and support local economies
Tri-State has made no promises to ensure that rural Colorado will not be forced to pay for new, dirty gas infrastructure as it retires coal plants.
Colorado doesn’t need any more fracking or gas infrastructure. Renewable energy, efficiency and storage projects can meet Colorado’s electricity needs and maintain a reliable electricity grid, all while growing rural economies through living-wage jobs and creating new local tax revenue. A 2019 study by Rocky Mountain Institute finds that 90% of proposed combined-cycle gas plants in the next five years could be cost-effectively avoided with clean energy. If built, even these new gas plants would become uneconomical by 2035 and become stranded assets because they are quickly being outpriced by clean energy technologies that have no fuel costs and low maintenance costs. Tri-State should avoid gas so that Colorado ratepayers don’t get stuck paying off these debts for Tri-State.
Fracking and gas infrastructure also has a significant impact on the environment and exacerbates the climate crisis. Burning fracked gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas on steroids that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Between 1990 and 2020, Colorado’s methane emissions are expected to increase by 139 percent with natural gas and oil systems accounting for half of all methane emissions in 2020 (page 6). Methane emissions are projected to increase in Colorado over the next 10 years. Colorado cannot meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals without addressing ALL greenhouse gases.