Our Energy Mix

CEO Column from the March 2020 Colorado Country Life magazine.

Jim Herron, MVEA CEO

Since 2019 we have regularly discussed the rapidly evolving energy landscape of Colorado: large-scale policy change driven by the decreasing cost of renewable energy, increasing support for an energy portfolio change by Colorado’s elected officials, the passing of House Bill 19-1261 “A Climate Action Plan To Reduce Pollution,” and the announcement by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Mountain View Electric Association, Inc.’s wholesale power supplier, to create a Responsible Energy Plan to meet regulatory demands. The changes in 2019 were rapid, sweeping, and, at times, surprising. That trend has carried over into 2020. In early January, Tri-State made two announcements that will further transform Colorado’s energy landscape.

The first announcement was that Tri-State will retire all coal generation in New Mexico by the end of 2020 and its remaining Colorado coal plants and coal mine by 2030. According to Tri-State, the closures will result in a 100 percent reduction of coal emissions in Colorado and New Mexico while increasing Tri-State’s competitiveness with a cleaner portfolio and stable rates. The first question many people had following the announcement was about the overall impact to rates and reliability. Duane Highley, chief executive officer of Tri-State, shared the following, “Tri-State is favorably positioned to successfully transition our resources at the lowest possible cost. The low costs of renewable energy and operating cost reductions help to counterbalance the cost to retire our coal assets early.”

The second announcement came a week later when Tri-State announced action items for its Responsible Energy Plan. These action items helped to address some of the questions about the retirement of Colorado and New Mexico coal generation. The action items that are part of its energy transition align with the state regulatory changes that were introduced and passed in 2019.

According to Tri-State, its clean energy transition significantly expands renewable energy generation, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, extends the benefits of a clean grid, and will share more flexibility for self-generation with members. Some of the Responsible Energy Plan action items include: increasing renewables to 50 percent of energy consumed by members by 2024; reducing emissions with the closure of all coal plants operated by Tri-State; increasing member flexibility to develop more local, self-supplied renewable energy; extending benefits of a clean grid through expanded electric vehicle infrastructure and beneficial electrification programs.

What do these changes mean to MVEA members? As I have shared in the past, since Tri-State is MVEA’s wholesale power supplier, any policy or change that impacts Tri-State, has a potential to impact MVEA members. According to Tri-State, the changes will not impact rates or reliability. The end goal is a cleaner grid and a reduction in emissions. Tri-State’s leadership and board of directors are unified in their goal to create a lower-cost wholesale power portfolio that is both clean and reliable.

According to the most recent Energy Information Association report that looks at national energy use data, Tri-State is not alone in its energy transition. The current long-term forecast indicates renewables will be the largest source of electricity after 2045, a forecast that Tri-State is proud to support. “We’re not just changing direction, we’re emerging as the leader of the energy transition,” Highley shared when the actions were announced.

“Members of Tri-State benefit today from an increasingly clean and reliable energy supply that is more than a third renewable today and rising to 50% clean energy in just over two years,” said Chief Executive Officer Duane Highley. “By 2030, 70% of the energy our members use will come from clean, zero-emission resources.”

Whether you support or oppose the industry changes, I encourage all MVEA members to visit Tri-State’s website to learn more about Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan.

pie charts of resource mix data

Total System Capacity
Generation Source Share
Coal 36%
Renewables 28%
Gas 19%
Basin 14%
Oil 3%
Total System Energy
Generation Source Share
Coal 48%
Renewables* 27%
Market 10%
Basin Non-Renewables 9%
Gas 6%
Oil Less than 1%
*The percentage of renewable energy consumed by Tri- State’s members’ customers is approximately 33%