Leading the Way With Renewable Energy

Headquartered in Westminster, Colorado, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a not-for-profit electric generation and transmission cooperative. Its 46 members include 43 electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. Together, they provide power to more than one million consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the western United States.

A long-time CoBank customer, Tri-State has a strong commitment to renewable energy. Since 2009, it has contracted for 15 utility-scale wind and solar projects, as well as several small hydropower projects. But this year, Tri-State made a bold leap to become a nationwide leader in renewable energy with the release of its Responsible Energy Plan.

Tri-State is providing clean energy at an affordable wholesale rate

“This isn’t just a change in direction,” said Duane Highley, Tri-State’s chief executive officer. “This is a new Tri-State, grounded in our cooperative principles and focused on the future. Our clean energy transition significantly expands renewable energy generation. We’re accelerating the retirement of the coal generation we operate and adding clean energy across our members’ service territories. We’re adding six utility-scale solar projects and two utility-scale wind projects, bringing our system up to over two gigawatts of renewables by 2024. This will include the most solar of any cooperative in the nation.”

“CoBank has always been incredibly proud of our relationship with Tri-State,” said Todd Telesz, senior vice president of Power, Energy and Utilities at CoBank. “They’re an innovative cooperative and a vital resource for their members and the communities they serve. The introduction of the Responsible Energy Plan is an exciting step for Tri-State and we look forward to our continued partnership as they embark on this transformation.”

The development of the Responsible Energy Plan was informed through a collaborative advisory process with Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) and representatives from academic, agricultural, cooperative, environmental, rural and state government interests. Throughout the process, the group helped Tri-State create challenging, but attainable, goals.

Under the plan, Tri-State will:

  • Increase renewables to 50 percent by 2024;
  • Add one gigawatt of renewables from new solar and wind projects;
  • Eliminate 100 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions from coal in New Mexico by the end of 2020 and in Colorado by 2030;
  • Support affected employees and communities in the transition;
  • Extend the benefits of its clean grid across the economy through expanded electric vehicle infrastructure and beneficial electrification.

The concept of beneficial electrification is a key element of Tri-State’s plan. Beneficial electrification promotes the efficient use of electricity to replace fossil fuels in a way that benefits consumers, improves the environment and increases the resiliency of our energy system. In 2019, Tri-State joined state and national partners to form the Colorado chapter of the Beneficial Electrification League (BEL): the first state chapter in the organization’s history. The BEL believes that the electrification of technology has the potential to improve consumers’ quality of life while saving them money and reducing emissions.

“Tri-State is providing clean energy at an affordable wholesale rate,” said Highley. “By taking advantage of the low cost of renewable energy and reducing our operating costs, we will be able to keep our wholesale energy rates stable during this transition while extending the benefits of a cleaner grid to power what matters to consumer-members, from vehicles and homes, to farms and businesses.”

The number of electric vehicles on the road has increased dramatically as technology has improved and become more affordable

One of the ways Tri-State is extending these benefits is by expanding the network of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the rural communities it serves. Tri-State has committed nearly $2 million to fund charging stations for its member distribution systems and to promote electric vehicle usage and solutions that work for rural areas.

“The number of electric vehicles on the road has increased dramatically as technology has improved and become more affordable,” said Highley. “But a lack of charging stations has meant that rural communities have had limited opportunities to take advantage of this technology. We are excited to work with our members to expand availability of electric vehicle options to the consumers they serve, no matter where they live or work.”

“Tri-State has a vision for the future in which everyone will share in the benefits of the transition to cleaner energy,” continued Highley. “And we look forward to seeing that vision become a reality as we implement our Responsible Energy Plan.”