Are we really Better Together?

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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Spring has sprung, and with it came the rebirth and revitalization of Tri-State’s newest ad campaigns. As discontent about Tri-State has risen across the state, the generation and transmission company responded by developing a new marketing strategy.

In the past few weeks, Tri-State flooded local media outlets in La Plata County with sentimental, pointed ads.

First of all, Tri-State revived Renewable Randy, the pseudo-lumberjack that hypes their renewable portfolio. Randy is back in his red flannel touting Tri-State’s recent solar investments and attempting to assure us that Tri-State really is environmentally-friendly.

While it’s great that Tri-State is increasing solar-generated capacity, renewables constitute only a tiny fraction of their overall fuel mix. Doubling a small percentage of renewables still equals only a small percentage of renewables. Tri-State is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and they are the single worst emitter of carbon dioxide in the country per unit of energy produced. 

Perhaps we would be more amenable to Randy if he advocated for more local renewable generation, so that developments like Montezuma County’s utility-scale solar project could thrive instead of being shut down by Tri-State’s 5% cap. 

Or maybe if Randy was more transparent about where Tri-State’s power actually comes from, instead of touting deceptive renewable statistics, we the members could be less suspicious of Tri-State’s intentions.

Renewable Randy in March 28th’s Durango Telegraph

An LPEA logo in Tri-State’s “Better Together” ad campaign.

Tri-State also rolled out “Better Together”, an aggressively sentimental ad campaign that portrays Tri-State as a benevolent familial figure in member’s lives.

The Better Together ads feature smiling kids, triumphant local sports teams, and idyllic shots of electric workers. They’re designed to make members forget about Tri-State’s high rates, risky debts, and restrictive contract and focus instead on how we’re all one big co-op family.

The ads are customized to specific member co-ops, and use local logos and a special web link to make us feel like Tri-State developed unique ads for each co-op.

Here in Southwest Colorado, LPEA’s logo appeared in print newspapers as well as on Tri-State’s website for the Better Together ads. They also created the url tristate.coop/LPEA to showcase their commitment to our region.

Unfortunately, the warm fuzzy feeling Tri-State is going for cools significantly when you realize that Tri-State didn’t get permission from member co-ops to use their name and logos on the advertisements.

 

LPEA and Mountain Parks Electric, located in Granby, have both asked Tri-State to pull advertisements that used their logos without permission. The LPEA link on Tri-State’s website no longer works, either.

Tri-State is spending your money on expensive, pointed ad campaigns that have only one mission: to convince us to blindly trust Tri-State, regardless of price or environmental responsibility.

How much member money has  Tri-State spent on these ads? And why did they start rolling their chummy Better Together campaign out right as LPEA election season starts?

As the electric industry shifts, it seems Tri-State prefers the facade of renewable energy while keeping close to their coal sources. And they would prefer we close our eyes and put total trust in them.

Tri-State holds a monopoly over LPEA’s energy and supplies 95% of our electricity. It’s worth asking: what are they trying so hard to sell us?

Despite these campaigns, Tri-State’s actions demonstrate that they envision our familial relationship as something a bit more, well, strained. In the past, members have been allowed to Tri-State’s annual meeting, but this year the generation and transmission association is closing their doors.

Co-op members will not be allowed to attend, with Tri-State stating that it is not a public meeting. Although Colorado law requires open meetings for all electric cooperatives, Tri-State is exempt.

If we’re really Better Together, why is Tri-State trying to keep members at an arm’s length and keep us from the “family” reunion? 

Don’t we deserve to have a say in our electricity, too?

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Next LPEA Meeting:
Wednesday, April 17th at 9am at the LPEA Headquarters.  Public comment is at 9am.

Call or email your LPEA Board Directors.

(Hover over your neighborhood for contact information!)

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