The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued orders on Friday to accept Tri-State Generation and Transmission into its jurisdiction, ensuring wholesale rate regulation for the cooperative’s member distribution utilities across its operations in four states.

Before being accepted into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, energy rates for Tri-State members were subject to legislation passed in any one of the four states it operated in. Now, similar to larger utilizes such as Xcel Energy, Tri-State will file proposed rates with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will establish rates through its regular rate-setting process.

“This is a significant moment for our members, whose goals for cleaner energy and increased contract flexibility are greatly advanced by having the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as Tri-State’s wholesale rate regulator,” Rick Gordon, chairman of Tri-State, wrote in a statement. “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulation of our wholesale rates ensures greater certainty in our contracts and rate setting, as we increase members’ self-supply and local renewable energy opportunities.”

While officials with Tri-State saw this ruling as a major victory, it also opened the door for one of its largest members, United Power — which provides power for several communities around Boulder and Longmont — to leave the co-op by allowing a complaint with Colorado Public Utilities Commission to proceed.

Under the current Tri-State contract, officials with United Power said, the utility struggles to exercise more control over its costs of wholesale power and and the transition to more renewable energy resources.

In filing the complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, United Power is hoping to finally determine an accurate and reasonable cost to exit its power contract, should they choose to do so.

“United Power has been very methodical in our approach to determining our course forward in regard to wholesale power,” Dean Hubbuck, United Power’s chief energy resource officer, wrote in a statement. “We are weighing the cost and mix of power we receive from Tri-State with other options in the energy marketplace, and we need the PUC to provide an accurate and fair exit charge so we can make good decisions for our Cooperative’s future on behalf of our membership.”

In an attempt to address many of these concerns Tri-State approved its Responsible Energy Plan to provide greater flexibility for the self- supply of power and more local renewable energy development.

“With the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of our wholesale rates, and by delivering on our Responsible Energy Plan, we’re meeting our members’ goals for greater flexibility, more renewables, and lower emissions,” Duane Highley, Tri-State’s chief executive officer, wrote in a statement.

Nevertheless, United Power said they it continue to pursue a decision by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, whenever the board decides to reconvene following the coronavirus pandemic.

“Simply put, United Power wants to lower costs to our members and integrate more local renewable resources into our power mix,” United Power CEO Bryant Robbins wrote in a statement. “One option to achieve this goal is through exiting our contract with Tri-State. We hope a ruling by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission will help us clarify the costs and provide an exit pricing methodology that is both clear and fair to our membership and the membership of Tri-State.”

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