Tri-State backs off plans to build new coal plants

Tri-State backs off plans to build new coal plants

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has backed down on plans to build three, new, coal-fired power plants, but the move may not be enough to retain a local member co-op beyond its current contract.

The board of the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, a member of Tri-State, voted in December against a 10-year contact extension with Tri-State that would run through 2040.

The main reason the DMEA voted against the extension was because of Tri-State’s plans to build more coal-fired plants, which they called a bad idea.

DMEA spokesman Tom Polikalas said after the vote that the co-op wants Tri-State to put more emphasis on conservation and renewable energy sources. DMEA marketing manager Paul Bony said the board agreed that only one coal-fired plant was warranted.

Tri-State recently announced it has scaled back its plans to one coal plant and expansion of a gas generator plant in Kansas.

Tri-State’s original plan called for building two coal-fired plants in Holcomb, Kan., and one in eastern Colorado, DMEA General Manager Dan McClendon said. Tri-State’s revised plan calls for adding a 700-megawatt coal-fired plant to its Holcomb facility and a 300-megawatt combined cycle gas generator somewhere else in its service area, which includes parts of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska.

”We’re pleased to see they will take a slower approach and see some progress in their interest in promoting and supporting renewable energy and energy conservation,” McClendon said. ”Those are three things we have been asking them to consider for many years, and it’s progress.”

Most of Tri-State’s member co-ops agreed to its request for the extended contract to 2040, but the DMEA may still decline, McClendon said.

Tri-State has imposed a deadline of May 1 for signing the extended contract, but the DMEA has not changed its position. Meanwhile, seven other of Tri-State’s 44 co-ops, including Gunnison County Electric Association and San Miguel Power Association, have not decided whether to sign the dotted line.

Gunnison County Electric’s chief operations officer, Mike Wells, said his co-op will discuss the contract extension at its April 24 meeting and will make a decision at a special meeting April 25.

Wells said the Gunnison co-op also wants Tri-State to look more at energy conservation and renewable sources.

Whether Tri-State bent to the will of some of its co-op members is hard to say, McClendon said.

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