Delivering Reliable Power Supports Members, Greater Electrification
The primary mission of every cooperative is meeting the needs of its members. No one knows this better the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the nation’s third largest G&T cooperative with 45 members that provides electric power to 42 electric distribution cooperatives and public power district members across four Western states.
For these Tri-State members, reliability and affordability of electricity for their residential, agricultural and commercial consumer-members is paramount, as is the energy transition to cleaner power generation. In other words, renewables, and Tri-State is pursuing them avidly.
“We’re on a rapid trajectory to bring on significant additional renewable generation, which creates opportunities for rural investment,” says Lee Boughey, Tri-State’s vice president of communications. “This strategy is part of our Responsible Energy Plan and a demonstration of who we are as a cooperative and how we’re responding to our members’ needs.”
Tri-State delivers power across four states, each with its unique membership and priorities.
“Our members are diverse, which gives our cooperative great strength, and they all agree on our electric cooperative’s fundamental role to preserve the reliability and affordability of power for the communities they serve,” says Lee. “As we work with our members to keep the lights, at cost though our not-for-profit cooperative business model, we are also demonstrating how we can meet their goals to transition to cleaner energy and lower emissions.”
Currently, the energy consumed by Tri-State members is more than one-third renewable. By 2025, that’s expected to grow to 50%, and by 2030 the cooperative forecasts that 70% of the energy used by its members will be clean.
At the same time that it’s providing power to its members, Tri-State also absorbs the risk associated with wholesale power generation and delivery, including operational, market, financial and regulatory risks. Its success is clear: Tri-State’s wholesale rates to members had been stable since 2017, and have actually dropped by 4% over the past two years, although current inflationary conditions are placing upward pressures on all utilities' costs.
“One of the values of being member of Tri-State is that we help our members be more resilient and manage their risks, while delivering competitively priced power and services that provide members the stability they desire,” says Lee.
CoBank has been a lender to Tri-State since 1996. “As a member of CoBank we are eligible to receive the value of patronage distributions in the form of cash which is a unique benefit of a cooperative bank and is valuable to our affordability goals,” says Lee.
With the value of reliable, affordable and increasingly clean electricity, there is strong interest from consumers, businesses, policy makers and environmental organization in expanding the role of electricity to power rural communities.
“As we focus on our mission of serving the best interests of all our members by creating more value in the power we deliver, the opportunities for consumers to further electrify are immense,” says Lee. “Products like electric vehicles, and heat pumps for heating and cooling, fully bring the benefits of cooperative power to rural residents.”