Westminster-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the state’s second largest power provider behind Xcel Energy, reached a deal with environmentalists Wednesday that prompted the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to close its case investigating stepped-up state oversight of the member-owned utility.
Western Resource Advocates, an environmental law and policy nonprofit with offices in seven states, including Colorado, brokered the deal with Tri-State that takes effect next year and allows public input during the utility’s resource planning process as well during PUC review of the plan.
The PUC opened a docket to look into increased oversight of Tri-State in January, responding to criticism that the utility was leaning too heavily on conventional power sources such as coal, while giving short shrift to renewable energy sources. But Tri-State lawyers in July questioned the PUC’s regulatory authority, pointing out member-owned co-ops have a long-standing tradition of autonomy in Colorado.
Since then, Tri-State, which provides power to 18 member-owned rural electric co-ops in Colorado and 26 others in New Mexico, Wyoming and Nebraska, has made significant clean-energy strides, investing in a utility-scale solar facility in New Mexico and wind farm in Colorado.
The new planning process will provide public input and scrutiny closer to the PUC’s hearing process for investor-owned Xcel. It was approved by the PUC at a meeting Wednesday, allowing the state regulatory board to close the docket it opened in January.