Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the not-for-profit wholesale power supplier to 44 member electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming, held its 63rd annual meeting in Broomfield, Colo., on April 8, 2015. Approximately 480 electric cooperative representatives and industry officials attended the meeting to review the association’s performance and discuss the issues facing the electric utility industry.
Board elects officers
At the meeting, the association’s board of directors was seated for the upcoming year, including the six officers and three at-large positions that make up the board’s Executive Committee. Under the cooperative business model, Tri-State’s board is made up of one representative from each of its member systems, serving as the democratically-elected governing body of the association.
Rick Gordon, representing Tri-State member co-op Mountain View Electric Association (Limon, Colo.), was reelected chairman for a sixth consecutive term. Gordon originally joined Tri-State’s board in 1994 and served as vice chairman for 13 years prior to first being elected chairman in 2010. He has served on Mountain View’s board since 1992.
Tony Casados, representing Northern Rio Arriba Electric Cooperative (Chama, N.M.), also was reelected vice chairman for a sixth term, after having served as an assistant secretary for nine years previous. Casados has served on his local co-op’s board since 1982 and has been on the Tri-State board since 2000.
Leo Brekel, representing Highline Electric Association (Holyoke, Colo.) since 2003 was reelected to the position of secretary. Stuart Morgan, who has represented Wheat Belt Public Power District (Sidney, Neb.) on the Tri-State board since 2007, was reelected treasurer – a position he first assumed in 2012.
Matt Brown, who has represented High Plains Power (Riverton, Wyo.) on the Tri-State board since 2010, was reelected to the assistant secretary position for his third term. Julie Kilty, who has represented Wyrulec Company (Torrington, Wyo.) on the Tri-State board since 2012, was elected to the second assistant secretary position for her first term.
The Executive Committee’s three at-large positions are being filled by incumbents Joe Wheeling, representing La Plata Electric (Durango, Colo.) and Bill Mollenkopf representing Empire Electric Association (Cortez, Colo.), and newly elected member Joseph Herrera representing Socorro Electric Cooperative (Socorro, N.M.).
Member relations addressed in 2014
The association’s annual meeting and annual report was themed “Powering Forward Together” which highlighted the board and staff’s efforts during the past year to improve communications and strengthen the bond between the association and its 44 member systems. Tri-State Chairman and President Rick Gordon recognized the association’s membership for their work to improve member relations and spoke to Tri-State’s financial strength.
“A key focus of the board during the past year has been to improve relations and address disputes within the membership, and we made progress on that goal,” said Gordon. “The association remained financially sound in 2014 and returned $21 million in patronage capital to the member systems.”
Chief Executive Officer Mike McInnes commented on Tri-State’s operational performance.
“The association experienced growth in 2014, particularly in the oil and gas basins served by several of our member systems,” said McInnes. “Staff delivered new transmission projects to meet the growing needs of our membership, ensured the performance and availability of our power plants and bolstered our ability to manage our power and fuel transactions. In all efforts, attention to cost control remains important to our work.”
The association highlighted its work in 2014 to bolster member relations among its 44 member systems, including the board’s adoption of two dispute resolution policies, the work of two membership committees to address contract and rate issues, and the activity of member advisory councils.
“Our whole focus is membership driven,” said Jennifer Goss, senior vice president, member relations. “We continue to work together to build trust and to collaborate on the issues and services that each member values.”
Renewable energy production sets record
The association’s generation from renewable resources reached a new record, with 24 percent of the energy the association and its member systems delivered to cooperative members in 2014 coming from renewable resources. Overall, Tri-State delivered 15.4 million megawatt-hours of electricity to its members in 2014, while recording a member peak demand of 2,813 megawatts. Combined with off-system energy sales, the G&T sold 18.7 million megawatt-hours for the year.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognized Tri-State as the 2014 Wind Cooperative of the Year in the generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative category. Tri-State member San Isabel Electric Association, Inc. (SIEA), based in Pueblo West, Colo., was honored for wind energy development by a distribution cooperative.
“Tri-State continues to effectively add new renewable resources to its portfolio,” said Brad Nebergall, senior vice president, energy management. “With 24 percent renewable energy delivered to end users, Tri-State and our members are among the highest utility renewable performers in the U.S.”
Refinancing among largest for a U.S. electric cooperative
At the annual meeting, Chief Financial Officer Pat Bridges reviewed Tri-State’s $1.6 billion refinancing in November 2014, which was among the largest completed by an electric cooperative in U.S. history. The transactions included a $750-million private debt placement, a $500-million public bond offering and $340 million in loans with CoBank and the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC). As part of the refinancing, Tri-State paid off its Federal Financing Bank (FFB) and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) loans.
“Generation and transmission cooperatives are capital intensive businesses,” said Bridges. “With favorable market conditions and a strong balance sheet, Tri-State’s refinancing reduces capital costs, increases financial flexibility and lessens future borrowing needs, which helps manage costs to the benefit of our members.”
The association posted year-end revenues of $1.4 billion and assets of $4.7 billion.