SJCA Guide to
La Plata Electric Association (LPEA)
We’re tracking LPEA, the rural electric co-op for La Plata and Archuleta counties, as they grapple with a new energy economy. Photo: Alex Pullen.
La Plata Electric Association (LPEA)
Did you know renewable energy costs in Colorado are now on par with coal!?
Unfortunately, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) is in an increasingly expensive contract that forces us to buy 95% of our power from a majority fossil fuel provider through 2050.
Our community should look into ways to use renewable energy to secure our power sources, clean up our environment, improve public health, boost our the local economy, and lower electricity rates for everyone. But right now, many of our LPEA Board of Directors are unwilling to question the status quo.
Fortunately, each member owner of LPEA (anyone with an LPEA electricity bill) has the power to shift the conversation by engaging with, and electing, LPEA Board Directors. Democratic participation will be key this spring as the election kicks off and the current LPEA board grapples with planning for the future. We know it can be hard to keep up, so we pledge to help you out!
Renewable energy is the future.
The energy industry is rapidly changing. Renewable energy and energy storage prices continue to drop in Colorado and are now on par with, or below, the cost of fossil fuels. This means that we can finally clean up our environment, protect public health, boost local economies and lower electricity rates.
LPEA is required to purchase 95% of our electricity (mostly coal) from Tri-State Generation and Transmission. For a long time, this model of centralized coal was the cheapest way to produce energy, but in 2017 that changed.
These are median bids, which means half were cheaper. These bids put wind and solar plus storage at less than 74% of the operating costs of all coal plants currently in Colorado.  Affordable storage can now fix the main shortfall of renewables: that they don’t run all the time.
For decades, buying electricity from large, centralized power plants was the cheapest option. But rapidly changing renewable energy technologies promise a new model. Distributed, utility-scale renewables are now able to produce power within the communities they serve. (Learn More)
We send over $70 million each year out of our local economy to pay Tri-State for our electricity. If we could generate 10% of our electricity locally, we could keep $6 million recirculating within our community and creating jobs. And it’s feasible. The cooperative in Taos, NM is already on its way to generating 40% of its electricity from local solar.
Producing electricity is the largest source of climate emissions in the United States. Majority coal supplied, Tri-State is the 2nd worst carbon emitting utility in the country per unit of energy produced.
Furthermore, coal-produced power specifically is known to contribute to 4 of the 5 top causes of death in the U.S.
LPEA’s mission statement claims it “provides its members safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost while being environmentally responsible.” If renewable energy is now more affordable, LPEA has a fiduciary duty to pursue it.
LPEA’s hands are tied.
Communities and utilities throughout the West are mobilizing to take advantage of the declining cost of renewable energy while southwest Colorado sits idly by. In our current contract, LPEA is required to buy 95% of our electricity from Tri-State until 2050. There are multiple ways LPEA could diversify our energy sources, gain local control, and lower electricity rates for everyone, but right now their hands. Learn more below.
Tri-State’s rates have gone up an average of 2.9% per year over last 10 years. Our local rates are already “in the upper range when compared with other electric coops and muni’s.”
Tri-State doesn’t need new sources of power until 2025. But their existing large fossil fuel investments have contributed to their current debt of over $3 billion.
LPEA is in a contract that forces us to buy 95% of our electricity from Tri-State until 2050.
In April 2017, the LPEA Board asked Tri-State to raise the 5% limit on local generation to 10% to gain the freedom to build more local renewable energy. Tri-State denied the request. (Learn More)
Change the LPEA Board of Directors.
As energy technologies rapidly change, finding the right path for LPEA will require vision, effort, research, and debate. It is the LPEA Board’s job to look to the future yet many of LPEA’s directors refuse to study and challenge the expensive status quo. (Learn More)
As member owners of LPEA, we have a responsibility to hold the LPEA Board of Directors accountable and elect new candidates who will provide effective leadership.
TALK TO YOUR LPEA DIRECTORS
Hover over your neighborhood to learn who represents you on the board! Give them a call or send them a note!
Did you know that La Plata Electric Association*(LPEA) is a rural electric cooperative? Cooperatives, or “co-ops,” are different from utilities in that they are owned and run by the customers rather than investors.
LPEA is a democratically run organization (see December 2018 LPEA Spotlight). Every year, the owners (a.k.a. customers like you) elect directors to the LPEA board. Those directors then determine the policies and overall directives of the co-op for us.
Contact your representatives and let them know which issues you care about (i.e. local renewable energy, low rates, or electricity reliability).
CAMPAIGN FOR LPEA ELECTION CANDIDATES
Did you know that less than 25% of our community turns out to vote in LPEA elections every April? Let’s change that.
We must elect an active, forward thinking LPEA Board of Directors in order for LPEA to unveil and pursue the best path to a less expensive, clean, and reliable energy future. Below are the candidates we have endorsed this year in LPEA District 3 (City of Durango) and District 4 (North La Plata County). If you’re interested in supporting the candidates, considering donating or volunteering to their campaigns.
You may know Tim as the previous owner of Durango Coffee Company, or as a board member of Local First. For decades Tim has given his leadership skills and experience, as well as his energy and passion, to our community. He will make an excellent LPEA board director.
“I am running for La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) so I can help our community lead in locally generated, renewable energy. Doing so will be a triple win for our community: we can keep dollars local, lower rates, and increase our use of clean energy sources.” – Tim Wheeler
Britt has served two terms on the LPEA Board of Directors. In those six years, he has proven himself as a capable leader and invaluable asset for his understanding of the energy industry. As LPEA enters an uncertain energy future, we need leaders like Britt to help steer us through.
“The electricity industry is shifting and we can finally pursue (1) clean energy, (2) local development, and (3) lower rates at the same time. First, we need an active, forward-thinking LPEA Board of Directors willing to question the status quo. With your support I will continue to be a leader on the LPEA Board and in our community regarding local energy issues.” – Britt Bassett
You may know Jeff from the Durango Pro Rodeo Series or from Santa Rita Texas Longhorn Beef at the farmers market. He and his wife Linda have served our community for years and we believe Jeff would continue to do so on the LPEA board.
“The energy industry is advancing faster than we can report accurately. My opponent also sits on the board of Tri-State, our wholesale energy provider, and last year he voted against LPEA in favor of Tri-State’s bottom line. LPEA needs leaders who will stand up for LPEA in the face of this technology shift. I promise to work for reliable power and lower rates. I promise to put LPEA first.” – Jeff Mannix
SUBSCRIBE TO #LPEA SPOTLIGHT
It can be hard to stay current on LPEA’s happenings! So we’re here to help you out. Our new blog series covers the monthly LPEA Board of Director meetings. We’re tracking the board for transparency and accountability, as well as to stay current on their renewable energy initiatives. Find all spotlights here.