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This blog series covers the monthly La Plata Electric Association (LPEA)* Board of Directors meetings. We’re tracking the board for transparency and accountability, as well as to stay current on their renewable energy initiatives. Find past and future spotlights here.

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We have a new LPEA Board of Directors! This year engaged candidates managed to secure a forward-thinking majority. So now what?

In November 2017 we outlined exactly what we we’re working toward: utility-scale, distributed renewable energy. Unfortunately, some members of the community still don’t seem to understand. For example, in LPEA’s 2017 Annual Report, the then President of the Board of Directors seems to confuse utility-scale renewables with rooftop solar.

In 2017, Xcel Energy received bids for utility scale wind and solar at prices less than what it costs Tri-State Generation and Transmission to produce our coal energy. As prices continue to plummet, LPEA must find a way to adopt these systems into their energy supply. These large projects would be owned or contracted by LPEA (as opposed to individual members with solar on their roofs).

Utility-scale wind and solar could save everyone money. Unfortunately, as you may have heard, there’s a contract in the way.

LPEA is contracted to buy 95% of its power from Tri-State, primarily a fossil fuel company, until 2050. Until we deal with this limitation our community can’t benefit from low cost renewable energy (Learn more).

In 2016, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) bought out of its contract with Tri-State, projecting savings of $50 million over the terms of their 10-year contract. Because SJCA is pointing out this flaw in LPEA’s model many think we want to follow in their steps and buy out of our contract too. This is not (necessarily) the case. LPEA isn’t Kit Carson, but the Board owes it to LPEA members to at least consider the idea – alongside a lot of other ideas.

This year, LPEA needs to analyze all options.

And they are! An LPEA Board long-term strategy subcommittee has met every other week for the last few months to collect and analyze data about the next 15 years. The subcommittee will present their research on June 18th. The presentation will be open to the public (details at bottom of the post).

Determining the right path forward will take time, analysis, open minds, and a diversity of views. Thankfully, the new LPEA board is full of differing, but calculated opinions.

For example, the LPEA Board Directors elected this spring said the following about a possible Tri-State buyout in a Durango Telegraph article:

District 1 – Kirsten Skeehan: “Our relationship with Tri-State has to change. We need to work with them, not for them.”

District 2 – Kohler McInnis: “At this time, I believe the contract LPEA has with Tri-State G&T (TSGT) is in the best interest of LPEA’s members… any replacement plan would have to be superior in all aspects.”

District 3 – Britt Bassett: “We do not have enough information yet to know if we should pursue a buyout. However, it is clear that we should investigate this option.”

District 4 – Tim Wheeler: “If the investigation shows we could save our ratepayers substantial money by exiting [Tri-State], then we should pursue it. If not, then we can continue with [Tri-State].”

We expect the new Board of Directors to take the subcommittee’s research and plan next steps for analyzing all of LPEA’s options, including a buyout, staying the course with Tri-State, and everything in between.

If directors choose one option without a comprehensive analysis of others, we’ll be right there to hold them accountable.

In Other News…

The election is over! Congratulations to LPEA’s new Board Directors Tim Wheeler (District 4) and Kirsten Skeehan (District 1). Welcome back to incumbents Britt Bassett (District 3) and Kohler McInnis (District 2). We look forward to working with you.

  • President: Bob Lynch (District 1)
  • Vice President: Britt Bassett (District 3)
  • Secretary: Dan Huntington (District 2)
  • Treasurer: Tim Wheeler (District 4)
  • Round Up Board: Rachel Landis (District 3) and Mike Alley (District 1)
  • Tri-State Board: Kirsten Skeehan (District 1)
  • CREA Board: Jack Turner (District 4)
  • Western United Board: Kohler McInnis (District 2)
  • 4CORE Board: Rachel Landis (District 3)

Call or email your new LPEA Board Directors.

(Hover over your neighborhood for contact information!)

LPEA board is to present on long-term strategy. Come watch the board subcommittee and LPEA staff present their extensive research on energy industry trends to the rest of the LPEA board directors. June 18th  from 9-1pm at the LPEA headquarters (45 Stewart St, Durango).

* La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) is a member-owned rural electric cooperative that distributes power to La Plata County, Archuleta County, and parts of Hinsdale and Mineral counties in Southwest Colorado. LPEA buys 95% of its power from Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

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