A door squeaks open for rural energy independence

A Colorado co-op just won some freedom from its giant power supplier. Now what?


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled last Thursday that a rural co-op in western Colorado is less locked to its giant utility provider than previously understood and may, in fact, begin negotiations to buy power from a small producer nearby.

The ruling came after months of anxious waiting and years of turmoil between the co-op, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, and the company that generates most of its electricity, Tri-State, a generation and transmission company. The decision stems from a request by Delta-Montrose in February that it be allowed to purchase electricity generated locally and that Tri-State be designated as a public utility, which would require its rates be regulated by the feds.

Tri-State, which is owned by and sells power to 44 rural co-ops in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming, opposed the request. The two have been at loggerheads over this issue, as well as many others, for years. FERC ruled in favor of Delta-Montrose’s request to buy local power but opted not to regulate Tri-State’s rates. While the ruling could open the door for more co-ops to work with nearby power producers, it was a narrow decision, and so may not completely disrupt the way rural cooperatives get power for their communities.

Delta-Montrose, which serves Paonia, where NewTowncarShare News is headquartered, has been pushing for more and more freedom to generate its own power, especially from renewable sources. In 2013, the co-op began generating electricity from a small hydropower project on an irrigation canal operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. Delta-Montrose has also been eyeing other opportunities for additional solar, hydro and coal-methane power.

Delta-Montrose had been approached by Percheron Power, a Washington-based power developer, with the idea to build a small hydro project, also on the South Canal. But Delta-Montrose was restricted by its contract with Tri-State, which requires the generator supply at least 95 percent of the co-op’s power, as well as by the complex network of relationships between the two companies. (Technically, Delta-Montrose is a part owner of Tri-State.)

In response, Delta-Montrose filed a request for a decision from FERC, the federal agency that regulates such matters, citing a 1978 law intended to promote domestic energy production and fair energy rates, known colloquially as PURPA. The law requires that public utilities purchase power from so-called “qualifying facilities” when and where such facilities are available.

A Rural Electric Administration power plant in Montrose County, 1972. The county has been at the center over rural energy independence.

On Thursday, FERC ruled that Delta-Montrose must buy Percheron power, when it becomes available, under federal guidelines. While the ruling answered the immediate question, it left open a multitude of others. For example, the order states that Delta-Montrose is required to buy Percheron’s power, but did not clarify whether the co-op remains bound by the agreement to buy 95 percent of its power from Tri-State.

If Tri-State were to decide to hold Delta-Montrose to that contract and Percheron’s small hydropower facility came online as well, Delta-Montrose potentially could be required to buy more energy than it needs. Alternately, Delta-Montrose and Tri-State could renegotiate the terms of the contract (previously a source of tension between the two entities).

Tri-State did not respond by press time whether it would hold Delta-Montrose to the 95-percent power requirement.

The ruling could also open the door for some changes in the way rural communities get their power. For example, rural electric cooperatives might be able to pursue similar opportunities for generating their own power locally. Several other Tri-State co-ops filed comments on the case and a handful, including two in southwest Colorado and one in New Mexico, supported Delta-Montrose’s request.

The ruling could also let private homeowners or small-scale solar providers construct solar arrays and sell that energy back to the grid, without running up against Colorado’s standards for rural net metering.

And the fight between Tri-State and Delta-Montrose regarding local generation might not even be over. Both parties have the opportunity to appeal, and the question of the contract requirement remains open. As Rich Mignogna, a Colorado energy expert, says: “I don’t think this finishes anything.”

Kate Schimel is an editorial intern at NewTowncarShare News. Follow her 

Homepage photo courtesy of

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • The National Parks Conservation Association, the nations leading national park advocacy organization, seeks a Regional Director to lead and manage staff for the Southwest Regional...
  • available in Gothic, CO for 2019 summer season - Manager, Lead Cooks, Prep-Cooks, Dishwasher - at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). The Dining Hall...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.
  • More information: jobs.wisc.edu. Search 96076
  • Friends of the Verde River is looking for someone to join our team who has a keen investigative mind and is an excellent communicator and...
  • - Thriving Indie bookstore in Durango, CO. 1800 sf of busy retail space in a 3100 sf historic building. Long term lease or option to...
  • with home on one acre in Pocatello, ID. For information and photos visit www.blackrockforgeproperty.com.
  • The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is seeking a technical partner to develop a land management plan for the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears Landscape in southeastern...
  • Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • on 3 acres near Moxon. 3 bd/1.5 bath, apt. Views/access to hiking, fishing, wildlife.1-207-593-6312. $165,900.
  • Senior position responsible for the development of all marketing and fundraising strategies to grow the base of philanthropic support and awareness of GSEP.
  • This newly created position with The Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program will play a key role in the development and implementation of strategies to achieve...
  • A new generation of monkey wrenchers hits the Front Range?
  • The Wilderness Society works to protect Wildlands and inspire Americans to care for our public lands. We seek to hire a strategic, experienced leader who...
  • Organic grocery/cafe at Glacier Bay needs a vibrant leader. Love good food, community, and Alaska? Join us!
  • Collector's Item! The story of barley, the field crop. 50 years of non-fiction research. www.barleybook.com
  • near Ennis, MT. Artist designed, 1900 SF, 2BR/2BA home on 11.6 acres with creek, tree, views, privacy. 406-570-9233 or [email protected] www.arrowreal.com (Country Homes).
  • Colorado Farm to Table is looking for a full-time energetic, creative Executive Director to lead our team in Salida.
  • Join HCN and Black Sheep Adventures on an expedition through the national parks and monuments of Utah and Southwest Colorado, September 7 - 15, 2019....

В интеренете нашел нужный блог на тематику Провирон купить www.dopingman.com.ua/