On June 16, SELC helped score a significant victory that will bolster the growth of clean energy in the Southeast, and across the nation.
In 2015, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association—a rural, member-owned electric cooperative in Colorado—filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Delta-Montrose asked FERC to confirm that federal law gives it – and other electric cooperatives – the ability to purchase power from independent power producers, which include solar and other clean energy facilities, even if doing so would decrease the amount of power they purchase from their primary bulk energy providers. By purchasing power from the independent producers, cooperatives can reduce reliance on fossil-fuel generation, increase clean energy supply, help make renewable energy more accessible to their members, and boost regional economic development by creating jobs.
In June 2015, FERC ruled in Delta-Montrose’s favor, and against the large utility that sells power to Delta-Montrose and 44 electric co-ops across five western states, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.
But Tri-State posed a new hurdle earlier this year, when it filed its own petition at FERC. Tri-State sought authority to impose a penalty on Delta-Montrose and its other member co-ops that purchased power as permitted by the FERC order. The large utility claimed the penalty was necessary to recovery lost revenue from its members.
In March, SELC took the lead in submitting comments on behalf of 14 partner groups in support of Delta-Montrose’s legal obligation to buy power from solar and other clean energy facilities without the imposition of a penalty from it supplier. Two weeks ago, FERC agreed and issued a clear rejection of Tri-State’s petition, and referenced arguments made in SELC and partners’ comments. FERC’s order confirms that electric cooperatives and municipal utilities may purchase power from small energy providers under federal law, despite restrictive contracts with their bulk suppliers that limit the ability of co-ops and municipal utilities to choose the source of their power.
This ruling is nationally significant, but is especially important for the Southeast, where municipal utilities and electric co-ops serve more customers than in most other parts of the country. Now, these significant Southern energy providers, and their customers, have more freedom to choose where they get their power and can seek new opportunities for solar power and other clean energy resources across the region.