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Tri-State announces renewable energy plan following planned closure of coal operations

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By Derek Draplin | The Center Square

A cooperative power supplier that last week announced the shuttering of coal operations in Colorado and New Mexico, announced a new energy plan at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association said last week that it was closing the Craig Station coal plant and Colowyo Mine in Colorado and Escalante Station coal plant in New Mexico, an announcement that drew concern from some Republicans and the coal industry.

The cooperative says closing the facilities “will eliminate 100 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions from coal in New Mexico by the end of 2020 and in Colorado by 2030.”

Tri-State said Wednesday they would double their renewable portfolio by adding eight total renewable energy projects in Colorado and New Mexico by 2024.

New Mexico will get a solar project, while Colorado will get five solar projects and two wind projects.

“We’re not just changing direction, we’re emerging as the leader of the energy transition,” Duane Highley, Tri-State’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Membership in Tri-State will provide the best option for cooperatives seeking a clean, flexible and competitively-priced power supply, while still receiving the benefits of being a part of a financially strong, not-for-profit, full-service cooperative.”

Highley said in the news conference that meeting the state’s clean energy goals meant “some hard decisions at our coal-based facilities.”

Highley could not answer how many jobs the renewable energy projects would provide when asked by a reporter.

Gov. Jared Polis, who praised the announced closures in his state of the state address last week, during the press conference expressed commitment to helping the transition to renewables.

“One of the advantages of Tri-State being forward looking and figuring this out with bold leadership is there will be a good partner there to work on the transition versus a chaotic way where every community would be left on their own to figure that out,” Polis said.

Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, who represents Craig, said he’s focused on his constituents following the announcements.

“There is chaos in Craig, Colorado. There are very upset families,” he said.

“We have a lot of work to do” in putting together a recovery plan, he added.