Ross Caldwell

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April 25, 2013
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Letter to the Editor: Why electric rates are climbing

To all the Member Owners of Mountain Parks Electric:

As a Mountain Parks Electric board member for 14 years and a TriState board member for 3 years, I would like to share my insight as to why electric rates are on a steady upward climb.

For two decades starting in the 80's, TriState rates were stable. The prime reason being TriState was operating in a stable environment both economically and politically. Neither of which is any longer the case.

The economy

There is of course the gradual creep of inflation, that has gone on since FDR took us off the "Gold Standard," that is always there. Economic pressures have become immense in the last few years. Many factors weigh in on this. The overriding cause of the increased cost of everything is that government policies have been and are destroying the value of our hard earned money. National debt doubling in six years to nearly $17 trillion is to blame. The fact that our government has a continual and ongoing policy of printing $85 billion a month is to blame. That affects your electric bill.

Government policy

EPA was created by Nixon in 1970. Our air is cleaner, our rivers are cleaner, and we are all better off for it. That agency has become something it was never intended to be.

Currently the EPA has put new rules in place that have effects on the environment so small current technology can't measure it. One example is the new mercury standard. Coal generating stations in the west, TriState's being some of the cleanest, all have controls in place to curtail mercury emissions to the fullest extent of available technology. Additionally, "Western Coal" inherently has little mercury in it. New EPA standards costs are in the billions of dollars to bring mercury levels down to an amount that current instrumentation cannot measure. The fact around airborne mercury in the west is that it comes from China's dirty coal plants burning their mercury laden coal. If our government insists we spend billions to clean up airborne mercury we would at least get benefit if we installed the equipment on Chinese coal plants. New mercury standards are only one example of many. That affects your electric bill.

The closing of coal generation stations that cannot meet the new standards, (yes the standards that can be measured) will reduce the availability of what we have come to expect at the flip of a switch. That affects your electric bill.

Wind and solar power generation have become a larger part of the power generation mix in our country. Generally measured at 1 percent of the total generation capacity. TriState receives power from one wind farm near Burlington and was working on a second near the Colorado and Wyoming border when I retired form the board. You also receive power from a 250 acre, 500,000 panel solar farm in Northern New Mexico. That facility's annual capacity is 30 million watts. Sounds like a lot, TriState's coal fired Craig Station 3 generates that amount of power in one week. Clearly wind and solar cannot meet the need. The other unspoken fact about wind and solar is that for every watt of green generation there needs to be a matching watt of reliable, controlled, dispatch-able generation. So while it does offset fuel consumption it does not reduce the need or cost of building and operating conventional generation. That affects your electricity bill.

At mine and a few other directors on the board at TriState behest the management of TriState accounted for the current cost of government compliance on all levels and there are many levels. That cost in 2010 was $212 million, or about 18 percent of the total budget. That amount went to 21 percent in 2011. I have no doubt this year one in four dollars you spend on your electric bill will be driven by the cost of government compliance. I personally believe in government controls and reporting for the benefit of the public, to a point. I believe that point has been passed. I also believe the effect of government on your power bill is far too large.

I have witnessed the board and management at your Mountain Park run our Electric Co-op on a razor edge budget. There is no leaner business than an Electric Co-op in our country.

If you don't like the cost of your electricity, go see your government representatives, both state and federal. Talking to these representatives has become the biggest job of a board member at Mountain Parks Electric. To put forth the idea that increasing electricity costs come out of Granby is naive at best.

Ross Caldwell

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The Sky-Hi News Updated Apr 25, 2013 06:26PM Published Apr 25, 2013 06:25PM Copyright 2013 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.