Author, entrepreneur, Stanford educator, international thought leader on disruptive change in energy systems, and recipient of the Clean Energy Action 2017 Sunshine Award:
On June 25th the Denver Post reported on a huge victory for energy freedom and rural renewable power on the Western Slope of Colorado. We’ll explain what happened – and why is it so exciting.
Delta-Montrose Electric Association (Delta-Montrose), a rural electric co-operative serving 35,000 customers, sought to purchase cheap, reliable and renewable power from a small hydroelectric dam on an irrigation canal in Montrose. That seems simple enough – provide your customers with affordable, clean power that’s right in your backyard – why not? What was standing in Delta-Montrose’s way?
Seems simple enough – provide your customers with affordable, clean power that’s right in your backyard – why not?
What stood in Delta-Montrose’s way was a contract with its wholesale power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, restricting their freedom to access clean energy. Delta-Montrose buys power from the large utility Tri-State and then sells that power to its members. Tri-State’s contract confined Delta-Montrose, and the 44 other rural electric co-ops it serves, to buying 95% of their electricity from Tri-State. Even if affordable renewables were available literally right next door, these rural electric utilities couldn’t buy them.
What stood in Delta-Montrose’s way was a contract with its electric power supplier restricting their freedom to access clean energy.
So Delta-Montrose took Tri-State to court – administrative court: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Delta-Montrose argued that federal law, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), allowed – even compelled – them to purchase power from the dam. You see, PURPA was written to encourage exactly the kind of power the dam provided: affordable, renewable power from a small facility. Last week, FERC agreed, stating plainly in its decision that “the mandate of PURPA to encourage… small power production,” like the dam on the irrigation canal, “supersede[s] contractual restrictions on a utility’s ability to obtain energy” from small renewable producers.
In other words, rural co-ops must be free to power themselves with the energy resources right in their backyards, no matter what contractual obligations they might have. Freedom to access local renewables trumps other concerns, opening up a new market for clean energy.
Rural co-ops must be free to power themselves with the energy resources right in their backyards.
The implications of this ruling – and the fact that it lines up congruently with FERC’s previous decisions – are enormous for energy freedom and rural co-operatives across the West. Whether it is hydro, wind, or solar, rural areas are home to tremendous renewable resources. They should be free to make the most of them. It is energizing to see federal regulators acknowledging and protecting that right.
Will this decision empower communities across the West to throw off their contractual shackles and to repower their communities with clean, affordable energy? Stay tuned, and we’ll see on which energy sources the West is run.
Sept. 3rd, 2014
6 – 8 pm
University of Colorado Boulder Campus
Hale Building, Room 260
How can students change energy policies in our state? How can we act in solidarity to move state legislators to fight for sustainability?
Clean Energy Action is bringing together Boulder students and community members to teach skills and tools to advocate for the clean energy market. This two-hour training will teach attendees how to craft their public narrative, set up meetings with their state legislators, and include a discussion of solutions to improve the state’s deficient energy market.
Join fellow community members from diverse groups in an evening of action, empowerment, and solidarity. Learn how to speak truth to power and demand changes to our deficient energy market.
This evening of action will focus on the economics behind the energy industry and discuss where we fit in as consumers. After skits and fact sheets, participants will have the opportunity to practice discussing the energy market with each other.
Next, we will practice the most valuable component of creating change: sharing our public narrative. Finally, we will end with the opportunity to sign up to meet with legislators and we’ll create action plans for how to move forward and organize for a better, more sustainable and equitable energy market.
Don’t miss this opportunity to stand in solidarity as community members, call on your legislators to create policy improvements to an energy market that is overdue for change, and be inspired by local community members who are demanding solutions for the climate and creating sustainability.
Food will be provided at the beginning of the training. The space is wheelchair accessible. For other ability and language needs, please contact Katie Raitz at (719)640-5803 or firstname.lastname@example.org Gender-neutral restrooms. We are unable to provide childcare for this event. Non-voting age youth are welcome to attend.
Sign up on the Eventbrite page, and include your zip code so that we can track your legislator and place you in a group with similar constituents. You don’t need to bring a ticket. The building is located on the University of Colorado’s campus, in Hale building, which is on Broadway and Pleasant Street. The training will be held in room 260. The building is accessible via RTD public transportation. There is metered parking on the Hill adjacent from campus.