In catching up on reading the Sierra County Sentinel from this past summer, I noticed that there was discussion by the Truth or Consequences Public Utility Advisory Board (PUAB) to possibly dissolve and become a part of Sierra Electric Co-op. I would personally advise against becoming a part of Sierra Electric Co-op.
Here are a few concerns:
Back in 2004, when Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which supplies SEC electrical power and probably yours via the PUAB, Tri-State asked its 44 co-ops in four states to sign a new contract, extending it from 2040 to 2050. Tri-State was planning on building a new coal fired power plant in Kansas and needed the extended contract for financing.
While the democrat Kansas governor blocked construction of the proposed coal plant, that ended up adding $300 million to Tri-State’s $3.2 billion current debt. Since Tri-State services about 1 million co-op members, the result is that each co-op member on average is responsible for $3,200 in debt.
So why would the PUAB want to join the Sierra Electric Co-op?
While SEC signed right up to extend their Tri-State contract, interestingly to co-ops Kit Carson, Taos and Delta Montrose, Colorado, did not sign the new contract and both have since bought out their Tri-State contracts. Kit Carson’s $37 million and Delta-Montrose, $68 million.
Kit Carson signed up with Guzman Energy to provide them with power at around 5.5 cents a kilowatt-hour versus Tri-State’s wholesale rate of 7.6 cents a kilowatt-hour. Kit Carson Co-op has used the savings to pay off the $37 million over six years or about $6 million a year.
Also during that time, since their contract with Guzman does not limit Kit Carson to a 5% self generation clause, which SEC, Tri-State contract does, Kit Carson will be 100% daytime solar, self generating in a few months. The last 21 MW of solar rays with 30 MW hours of battery back up, a power purchase agreement, PPA, is a 12-year contract, no money down, at four cents a kilowatt hour. After the 12-year contract expires, Kit Carson anticipates being able to buy the 21 MW facility for one cent a kilowatt-hour. Yes, that’s one cent per kWh, not the current 7.6 cents a kWh that Tri-State charges.
This is the reason both Kit Carson and Delta-Montrose elected to buy out their Tri-State contracts. They wanted to be able to self generate clean, renewable energy at far less the cost for their co-op members. This also brought in good paying solar construction jobs, and property taxes into the co-op service area, and they are far less reliant on hundreds of miles of high-voltage transmission lines, from the Craig, Colorado coal fire generation, which cost 1.5 to 2 cents per kilowatt to bring power to their co-ops.
So again, why would PUAB join SEC? Why not sign a power purchase agreement, install solar with battery backup, which today produces electricity for less money than the cost of just running a coal fired polluting power plant. Why not add construction jobs to your community? Why not broaden your tax base and save your ratepayers money?
The July 1, 2021, Valencia County News-Bulletin front page article: Solar Farm To Be Built In City Of Belen. The Sky Ranch, 190 MW solar array, 100 MW battery energy storage is projected to provide renewable energy for the Facebook data center in Los Lunas. It’s anticipated that Sky Ranch will contribute $13 million over 30 years to the city and school district, create 200 construction jobs over 14 to 15 months and 5 permit jobs.
As Steven Tomita, Belen’s planning and economic development manager said, he’s hoping this is just the beginning, as additional phases would be available to attract clean industrial manufacturing companies wanting to use green energy.
“The key for us in the future is that it provides clean energy and prospects of clean energy businesses“, Tomita said.
Unfortunately, the Sierra Electric Co-op signed up with Tri-State and locked themselves into an expensive inflexible energy past. I hope the PUAB will instead move to a clean source, local jobs and taxes, less expensive, renewable, independent, locally controlled, energy future.
s/Ward B. Mccartney III
44 Trueno Loop
(Over 350 words paid)