Tri-State Generation and Transmission boasts powerful year

More than 330,000 customers in three western states were able to cook, run the vacuum cleaner and stay warm in 1999 because of power provided by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

Most of that power was generated at the Craig Station in Moffat County.

Tri-State reported that it sold a total of 11.2 million megawatt hours of power last year, a slight decrease from 1998.

Tri-State sells to 32 member distribution systems, 15 of which are in Colorado. Some of those systems include White River Electric Company in Meeker, Gunnison County Electric and Carbon Power and Light in Saratoga, Wyo.

Craig residents benefited from Tri-State even though their electricty provider, Yampa Valley Electric Association (YVEA), does not purchase power directly from the company. YVEA does purchase power from Public Service Company of Colorado, which purchased excess power generated by Tri-State.

After its contractual obligations are met, Tri-State sells its excess power to other generation companies, such as Pacificorp of Wyoming and Public Service Company of Colorado.

"These companies need to supplement what they generate," Tri-State spokesman Jim Van Someren said.

Through its contracts, Tri-State earned $428 million in revenue last year. Because the company is a non-profit corporation, it returns all profits above its operating expenses to its member systems in the form of capital credits. In 1999, $15 million in capital credits was returned. Those systems then have the option of returning that money to consumers and most do, Van Someren said.

One of its most exciting accomplishments, Van Someren said, is that Tri-State's average wholesale rate will not increase for the 15th consecutive year. The current average rate of 3.54 cents per kilowatt-hour for 2000 is comparable to what the association charged in the early '80s, "while almost everything in life has gone up," Van Someren said. "There aren't that many things you can say that about, and not many utilities can boast that kind of track record."

Tri-State does not control what its member systems charge consumers, but feels in keeping its rates stable, the cost savings are passed on to individual households.

Moffat County did benefit in the form of property taxes paid in 1999. Tri-State paid a total of $13 million in property taxes in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico. Nearly half of those taxes, $6,638,087.70, were paid in Moffat County.

Tri-State is by far the largest contributor to property taxes in Moffat County and has been since 1992. It beats out the second-highest contributor, PacifiCorp, by more than $4 million.

That money provides for public services such as road maintenance, The Memorial Hospital and the Craig-Moffat County Library.

The Craig Station generation plant is the largest of six stations owned by Tri-State. The association owns 24 percent of Units 1 and 2 and is the sole owner of Unit 3.

In response to an increasing demand for cleaner fuel, the association is working to provide green power a clean burning, renewable energy source, such as hydroelectric or wind power. Fifteen of its member distribution systems contract for green power. Tri-State contracts to provide 470 megawatt-hours of wind power. The association is also exploring landfill gas as another green power.

Landfill gas generation uses the methane gas generated naturally in landfills to provide power. Tri-State is working with operators of a landfill near Denver International Airport to furnish that power.

Overall, the year was successful for Tri-State, Van Someren said. What the future holds remains to be seen, but he believes rates will remain stable and Tri-State will continue to generate the power needed to supply its member distribution systems.

Tri-State supplies power to four western states. Combined, its member cooperatives serve nearly 330,000 customer meters across a 150,000 square mile area to a total population of approximately 700,000.

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