US electric co-op makes carbon free pledge

‘This move forward will benefit our local economy and environment’

US electricity co-op Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association (PVREA) has set a target of providing 80% carbon-free energy to its members by 2030.

The co-op supplies electricity throughout north Colorado. Its carbon-free goal is the first by an electric co-operative that is consistent with new state climate legislation recently signed by Colorado governor Jared Polis.

The new legislation encourages the development of clean energy plans and requires greenhouse gas emissions from retail electricity sales in Colorado to decrease 80% by 2030.

PVREA will use emerging technologies such as battery storage and grid management systems, look for carbon-free generation opportunities and promote the development of a regional transmission organisation to work towards its target.

Its current power mix is 67% carbon-based generation, much of it from coal, but its portfolio also includes two hydroelectric generators, four large solar arrays and three community-owned solar farms. It plans to add two large new solar arrays in 2019.

“Establishing the ‘80 by 30’ goal is our first step toward increased reliance on carbon-free energy sources,” said Jeff Wadsworth, president and chief executive officer of PVREA. 

“By setting this ambitious goal, we have the opportunity to proactively address Colorado’s evolving regulatory environment and manage costs associated with potential future regulatory requirements.”

Steve Szabo, one of the PVREA members who has urged the co-op to embrace clean energy, said: “I am elated that the PVREA board, CEO and staff are working toward a carbon free electric generation portfolio. This move forward will benefit our local economy and environment.”

However, the co-op is bound by a deal which means it must buy all but 5% of its wholesale energy from wholesaler Tri-State G&T, which itself generates 70% of its power from carbon sources and 30% from renewable resources.

Tri-State G&T has added nearly 800 megawatts of renewable energy projects in the last decade and plans to add more in the future.

In January, the chair of Brighton-based United Power, the largest of Tri-State’s 40 member co-ops, wrote to fellow members to urge them to push for more flexibility in buying energy.

Campaigner Joe Smyth, from Colorado’s Clean Co-operative, has already argued that Tri-State policies have hampered electric co-ops looking to switch to renewables. Some have even bought their way out of the contract to allow them to focus more on renewables – with clean energy a growing priority for the sector.

Check out Co-op News’ World Environment Day special, which looks at this issue along with other activity from co-ops around the world.

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