Editorial: Tri-State deserves close scrutiny from state PRC

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative is seeking to end its relationship from Tri-State Generation and Transmission because of irreconcilable differences.

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Kit Carson Electric Cooperative is seeking to end its relationship from Tri-State Generation and Transmission because of irreconcilable differences.

The co-op wants to generate more electricity via renewable resources than the 5 percent cap imposed by Tri-State, which prefers to burn coal. Tri-State says such a deal stabilizes the price of energy. As the agreement now stands, that cap would remain in place until 2040.

Then, there is the matter of rising electric rates. Tri-State has about doubled the cost of power during the past 12 years without any checks from regulators.

The wholesale supplier put its legal team to work when Kit Carson and two other New Mexico co-ops protested yet another rate hike proposed last year to the state Public Regulation Commission. When Tri-State merged with Plains Electric in 2002 it said state regulators could review a rate hike if three member co-ops protested.

The PRC made the right decision when it decided to look into the rate hike. Tri-State countered with a lawsuit in federal court, claiming the same law it agreed to 13 years ago is unconstitutional.

That apparent contradiction led the PRC to look into whether the merger is valid and whether New Mexico co-ops are bound to its contracts.

While the lawyers banter back and forth, we will note Kit Carson Electric and we its members are getting a raw deal from Tri-State.

Kit Carson is nearly at that 5 percent cap with energy generated by solar arrays in various locations throughout the county since the first at UNM-Taos’ Klauer Campus went online in 2009. (Just this week the Solar Electric Power Association named Kit Carson the Utility of the Year for its efforts.)

We wager most co-op members want Kit Carson’s renewable energy options to expand. So do we. We are also weary of being at the mercy of Tri-State’s whims when it comes to rate increases.

We strongly urge the PRC to take its investigation seriously.

The co-op agreed to the merger because Tri-State made promises it is now not willing to keep. That sort of deception warrants close scrutiny, and we hope it leads to a change of attitude at Tri-State. If not, we think Kit Carson and its members should be allowed to shop around for a new power partner.

Latest outage

Internet and cell phone service was out again most of Saturday (Oct. 19) — the fourth time during the past 18 months. With just one link to the outside world, Taos and surrounding communities are vulnerable to falling out of touch.

One bright note: state Public Regulation Commissioner Valerie Espinoza has arranged a meeting Friday (Oct. 25) between CenturyLink and Kit Carson Electric officials. The business at hand is whether CenturyLink will lease space from Kit Carson when it completes a second fiber network sometime next year.

As we see it, two lines would better than one. We’re all a little tired of seeing “No Signal” on our cell phones every few months.

We strongly encourage CenturyLink to agree to this arrangement in the best interests of its customers, who are frankly fed up going without.

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