I was leafing back through the May 13 Rio Grande SUN and two articles caught my attention, which I reread. The first, “Jemez Audit Shows $661 K Write-off,” and the second, Stanley Crawford’s guest commentary, “Imagine an All Electric Future.”
In the Jemez article, the Board discusses obtaining a buyout cost number to possibly end their power contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission. A number of the Colorado co-ops have asked for that buyout figure, which Tri-State has basically refused to negotiate in good faith, and in fact pulled a bunch of shenanigans to shift their regulation oversight from Colorado’s public utility commission and our public regulation commission to the federal electric regulation commission. This move has impeded and delayed a fair buyout cost number to the co-ops.
The Jemez Board also mentioned that Tri-State has announced a reduction in power cost of 2 percent this year and 2 percent next year and locked in rates for the rest of the decade. General manager Michael Hastings also mentioned that Tri-State’s current energy plan would hopefully get them to 70 percent renewable energy within 10 years.
But as board member Stanley Crawford pointed out in his guest editorial, Tri-State’s renewable energy production is planned elsewhere, meaning that when transmission cost and in line losses i.e. 7 to 8 percent of the power is lost in transmission, yet co-op members pay for the amount of power produced at the source. Therefore the co-op’s cost to produce its own renewable solar energy is competitive with Tri-State’s and as Stanley correctly pointed out, local solar produces local jobs and I’ll add, taxes.
Kit Carson Co-op signed a contract five years ago with Guzman energy. Guzman fronted Kit Carson the $37 million to buy out their contract with Tri-State. Kit Carson is paying off the $37 million with the savings of the lower power rates that Guzman contracted for and the $37 million will be paid off next year.
So six years to pay off $37 million means, that Kit Carson will be saving its members $6 million a year. That works out to around a $200 savings per Kit Carson member per year. Recently Kit Carson signed a 21 MW solar array contract which came in at four cents a kilowatt hour. The 12-year contract will then allow Kit Carson to purchase the solar arrays for an estimated cost of around one cents per kilowatt hour.
Currently, we are paying Tri-State 7.6 cents a kWh. Tri-State has promised a 4 percent rate reduction which means 7.3 cents a kilowatt hour. Sixty percent of your electric bill currently pays for Tri-State power.
There’s one more piece to the equation to consider, Tri-State’s 1 million co-op members have a debt of $3.3 billion, so each co-op member owes around $3,000 for Tri-State’s debt load on top of your Jemez Co-op debt load.
Kit Carson members no longer have that $3,000 debt. Hopefully some financially savvy Jemez Co-op member will step up and run for the board. We’re looking at millions of dollars that co-op members could be saving on their electric bills and reinvesting in your local communities.
Ward B. McCartney III