Mountain Parks Electric looks for flexibility and stability as it leaves current power provider |

Mountain Parks Electric looks for flexibility and stability as it leaves current power provider

A sign outside a Mountain Parks Electric facility.
Mountain Parks Electric/Courtesy image

Editor’s note: Previous versions of this article erroneously read that Tri-State representatives did not respond to requests for comment. Tri-State provided a news release that quoted its CEO Duane Highley as saying the company will work with Mountain Parks Electric through the contract termination process and find solutions for members desiring more flexibility.

Mountain Parks Electric’s Board of Directors voted Jan. 12 to part ways with the co-op’s power supplier, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Mountain Parks became the third Tri-State member to leave the group since 2016.

The electric company’s reasoning for leaving Tri-State has to do with flexibility and stability, according to General Manager Mark Johnston. He identified flexibility as something other member co-ops have wanted.

“Tri-State has a rule that you can buy 5% of your power from somebody else,” Johnston said. “So what a lot of co-ops have done is they’ve done solar and wind projects in order to provide local, green, renewable projects within their own service territory within that 5%.”

Johnston said Mountain Parks and other members wanted to obtain more power from other sources than Tri-State’s policies allow. Bringing more flexibility would require the Tri-State members agreeing on new policies, which Johnston said was not happening.

“It’s not that they don’t want to be flexible,” Johnston said. “It’s just that you have to get 42 people to agree on what it means to be flexible.”

Mountain Parks’ board also believes leaving Tri-State gives the company an opportunity to find more stable pricing. Johnston said the Tri-State board holds less power over setting the company’s energy rates each year now than it did before going under wholesale rate regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Now it is more of a process of the federal level,” Johnston said. “They are looking at different rate structures to where there will be the possibility of more fluctuation within the rate.”

Johnston said Mountain Parks wants to have a fixed-price contract with its next provider — something the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in New Mexico did after parting ways with Tri-State in 2016. Kit Carson saw its rates drop 34% six years after the move.

The Granby-based co-op has already spoken with Guzman Energy and Crossover Energy Partners about entering such contracts. Guzman is Kit Carson’s energy provider, and Crossover has acted as a supplemental energy provider for Tri-State members.

A Guzman representative wrote in an email that the company “looks forward to participating in the process to evaluate power providers.” Crossover could not be reached for comment.

Mountain Parks notifying Tri-State of its departure starts a two-year transition process. Tri-State will remain the company’s provider until February 2025, and in the meantime, Johnston said Mountain Parks will likely choose a successor by the end of 2023.

“(The selection process) is probably on the shorter end,” Johnston said. “Not only do you want to pick somebody, but then you want to be able to negotiate the contracts and then you want some time to figure out all the details of how they will deliver the power to you.”

Johnston also said he expects the next Mountain Parks provider to use more renewable energy sources, with around 80% of the electricity coming from renewables. Tri-State expects to have 50% of its electricity be from renewable sources by 2024.

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