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 Tri-State, a generation and transmission provider that is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, 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.
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 is key as the election cycle continues on and the current LPEA board grapples with planning for the future.
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 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 are tied. 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)
A Forward-Thinking Board
LPEA’s elections are critical, and it’s important that each member-owner’s voice is heard! As energy technologies rapidly change, finding the right path for LPEA will require vision, effort, research, and debate. In the last few years, LPEA made huge strides towards an affordable and sustainable energy future, but there is still so much work to be done.
LPEA’s Board is in charge of making decisions that impact the co-op for years to come. It is essential that we elect a Board ready to ask hard questions and tackle new challenges.
Each year, we work to elect active, forward thinking directors to the La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) board. LPEA needs Directors who will lower rates, boost our local economy, and clean up the environment by advocating for renewable energy.
This year, we’re supporting forward-thinking candidates Mark Wahlser (District 2 – South & West La Plata County), Ted Compton (District 2 – City of Durango), and Tim Wheeler (District 4, North La Plata County)
Keep the Momentum Going
LPEA has a majority of Board members willing to research renewable opportunities, and over the past year they have been advocating for change. It is the LPEA Board’s job to look to the future – let’s make sure we have Directors willing to research our options and challenge the status quo.
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).
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.