- Tri-State Generation & Transmission on Thursday announced a goal to cut Colorado greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2030, relative to 2005 levels, accelerating its previous plan for a 70% reduction in its Colorado emissions across the same timeframe.
- To reach the goal, the utility will file its Electric Resource Plan (ERP) with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Dec. 1. That plan will include a "preferred scenario" that increases renewable energy, the company said.
- Separately, but also important to Tri-State's decarbonization plans, the utility said it is evaluating participation in the Southwest Power Pool's (SPP) western expansion, along with four other utilities.
Tri-State has faced criticism in the past over its coal-heavy fuel mix, but the T&D utility has shifted course and is working with its membership to rapidly boost renewables and the development of local resources.
"While our ERP scenario will not be easy to achieve, we are optimistic that by working together and making timely decisions, like by pursuing a regional transmission organization, we can overcome the challenges we will face," Tri-State CEO Duane Highley said in a statement.
Details of Tri-State's "preferred scenario" strategy will be included in the ERP, a utility spokesperson said in an email.
Tri-State serves cooperatives in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. The new carbon reduction announcement applies only to Colorado, but the utility noted that across its four-state territory, it has a plan to deliver 70% clean energy by 2030.
Tri-State officials also note the utility has plans to eliminate coal-based greenhouse gas emissions in New Mexico by the end of this year through the end of operations and retirement of its Escalante Station near Grants, N.M., and the retirement of Tri-State's capacity in the San Juan Generating Station in 2017.
Tri-State in October announced a plan to allow cooperative members to generate more of their own power and a goal to reduce wholesale rates 8% by 2023.
Tri-State's Highley announced the accelerated decarbonization alongside Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who said the utility's plan was essential to meeting the state's clean energy goals.
"Look, the bottom line here is that as Tri-State moves forward with resource planning approval at the Public Utilities Commission, they plan to bring forward a really exciting and groundbreaking proposal," Polis said. He called the announcement "strong movement towards our administration's goals of 100% renewable energy by 2040."
By 2024, 50% of the energy consumed at retail through Tri-State members will be from renewable energy, the utility said. That includes members’ renewable projects, Tri-State's own existing renewable resources, and the more than 1,000 MW of new renewable projects that have been announced.
Local leaders praised Tri-State's Colorado announcement.
"San Juan County and other rural Colorado communities have been pushing Tri-State for more ambitious climate action, and we’re very pleased that they are listening," San Juan County (Colo.) Commissioner Scott Fetchenhier said in a statement.
Tri-State said it has worked closely with its members as well as outside organizations, including the Center for the New Energy Economy, to develop its carbon reduction plan.
"I'm happy to hear that Tri-State is responsive to its members. Telluride can’t meet its carbon reduction goals unless Tri-State takes the lead on carbon reductions, so we’re thrilled with this news," Telluride Mayor Pro-Tem Todd Brown said in a statement.
Tri-State, other utilities consider SPP western expansion
Separately, Tri-State and four other utilities signed letters committing to evaluate participating in SPP's western expansion of the regional transmission organization. Membership in the expansion could mean improvements to regional transmission planning and cost allocation, which in turn will assist with integrating new renewable resources, said Tri-State.
Along with Tri-State, the utilities considering participation in SPP's western expansion include Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Deseret Power Electric Cooperative, the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) and the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA).
Basin Electric, MEAN, Tri-State and WAPA’s UGP-East Region joined SPP in 2015 when they placed their respective facilities in the Eastern Interconnection under SPP’s tariff. The RTO said that along with Deseret, each is also a customer of at least one of SPP’s contract-based Western Energy Services, which includes reliability coordination and a real-time market scheduled to launch in February 2021.
According to SPP, a recent Brattle study found that western energy imbalance service market participants’ membership in SPP would produce approximately $49 million in savings annually for current and new members.
Highley called Tri-State’s participation in a Western Interconnect RTO "essential to advance our members’ reliability, affordability and clean energy goals."
"With our western utility peers, we will take the time necessary to evaluate the expansion of SPP’s RTO into the West. While the issues are complex, we remain optimistic," Highley said.