Meeting the needs of electric consumers is a responsibility and stewardship granted to the electric utilities in the state of Colorado by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
As one of those electric utilities, in the form of a non-profit member owned rural electric cooperative, we at Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) take that responsibility very seriously. Our responsibilities are in serving the eastern half of Montrose County, all of Delta County (with the exception of the City of Delta) and a sliver of western Gunnison County. On behalf of its approximately 35,000 meters, DMEA purchases its power and energy from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. under what is called a wholesale power contract. That contract is one that requires DMEA to purchase all but 5% of its needs from Tri State through the year 2040. Tri-State has the responsibility to generate and transmit the power to DMEA and DMEA has the responsibility to distribute it to the membership.
Tri-State has done a good job of generating that electricity in a reliable and affordable manner. However, we are concerned for the future. As Tri-State continues to look for ways to meet the needs of its growing membership across four states (Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Wyoming) , there is increased concern in meeting new growth and old power plant replacement needs affordably.
The problem is complex. There are environmental pressures, economic pressures, and political pressures. With that concern, however, is hope. The hope is that we can work together and continue to utilize efficiency measures with our consumption and utilize sustainable technologies with our future generation facilities.
In the electric utility industry, the consumption of electricity is referred to the demand side. The production or generation of electricity to meet that instantaneous demand for electricity is called the supply side. DMEA continues to encourage Tri-State to develop and implement demand side programs and rate structures that promote the efficient use of electric energy while working toward meeting its current and future supply side requirements in a sustainable manner.
At home, DMEA is continuing to investigate and pursue economical demand side programs for its membership both in the efficient use of electricity as well as the sustainable generation local resources that we can all benefit from over the long run.
There have been recent efforts by some to go door-to-door encouraging various coop members (not just in the DMEA service territory but in other of the 43 electric cooperatives served by Tri-State) to write letters to their local co-ops stating a specific position for or against a particular supply side technology solution. Even though the DMEA Board of Directors encourages and appreciates feedback from its membership, rest assured we are working closely with Tri-State on this very issue.
Recent rules regarding efficiencies and emissions from coal-fired power plants is another challenge we will all have to work through in the coming decade.
On June 2, 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed proposed rules to limit power sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to achieve a 30-percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 on a state by state basis. The EPA created a complex calculation to determine each state’s 2012 emission rate – roughly equivalent to the pounds of carbon dioxide per Megawatt hour generated by affected (carbon-emitting) units – then modified it to account for additional generation from some low- or zero-emissions sources.
Regardless of a state’s past efforts to reduce GHG’s, the EPA assigned each state a “goal” number based on the amount of reduction the EPA believes the state can achieve going forward. To determine the goal rate, the EPA created another formula using four “building blocks” of emission reduction strategies. These include 1) heat rate improvements to a state’s existing carbon emission resources; 2) redispatch to combined-cycle gas units; 3) use or construction of new low – or zero-emissions resources; and 4) energy efficiency measures.(Kelsey, 2014)
At the end of the day, electric cooperatives were set up by local people for the local people to meet their electric energy needs. There is much work being done to see that the future needs will be met in a manner that is sustainable for all of us.
What can we do? We can continue to reduce our consumption locally by meeting our electric needs more efficiently while encouraging Tri-State to develop the most sustainable solutions to meet the future electric consumption that will inevitably occur in this beautiful part of the State.