Tri-State vote ensures lower rates, more discussion on renewable energy

Monday, April 16, 2018 11:33 AM

As LPEA's director appointed to serve on Tri-State's board, a frequent question I receive is - why did you vote to keep the Tri-State 5 percent self-generation provision and not increase it?

My vote supported lower rates and ensured further discussion.

My vote wasn't against renewables or LPEA generating power locally. Both LPEA and Tri-State support renewables. Tri-State added 477 megawatts of renewables over the past 10 years. Tri-State was among the first G&Ts to support member self-generation.

In 2000, Tri-State was projected to be short on generation and members wanted to self-generate with renewables. Tri-State's board implemented a contract provision for member self-generation up to 5 percent at an incentivized rate, which was a lower cost than building additional generation. My vote protected LPEA members from higher electric bills.

Today, Tri-State has sufficient generation, any increase in the 5 percent provision would also increase Tri-State's per unit fixed cost and raise rates for LPEA. Since the majority of LPEA's local renewable projects are owned by for-profit companies, an increase would benefit developers at the expense of LPEA members.

Can we still expand local renewables? Yes!

The Tri-State board developed a policy to purchase power directly from local projects. This policy has no limit and is not incentivized by Tri-State. With solar and wind prices falling and increasingly reliable energy storage, these opportunities are attractive. Throughout the review of the 5 percent limit, I strongly voiced the LPEA board's concerns to the other Tri-State members and inserted a provision that this important discussion be continued.

Kohler McInnis