Delta-Montrose Electric Association CEO Jasen Bronec met with White House officials in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss recent progress and potential collaboration on efficiency and renewable energy development. DMEA was one of 30 cooperatives invited to attend the meeting with officials from the White House Rural Council and the USDA's Rural Utilities Service.
"We had a productive conversation about how we can build the value of current federal programs and find more opportunities to bring the benefits of new efficiency and renewable energy technologies to our members," said Bronec.
Nationwide, co-ops have been rapidly adding renewable energy capacity to the rural electric grid. The nation's more than 900 co-ops own or purchase about 16.5 GW of renewable capacity and plan to add 2 GW of capacity in the near future. Cooperatives lead the nation in the development of community solar energy.
DMEA's local renewable portfolio consists of both hydro and solar resources. The co-op owns and operates two, 20 kW community-owned solar gardens. DMEA also partnered with the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association to develop a 7.5 MW hydroelectric facility on the South Canal in Montrose. The facility produces enough electricity during the irrigation season to power approximately 3,000 homes in DMEA's service territory.
A recent ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has increased the co-op's opportunity to purchase additional locally generated renewable energy. In June, FERC ruled that DMEA is required to purchase power from local qualifying facilities regardless of the limitations set in the co-op's wholesale power contract with Tri-State. DMEA can now purchase energy from local renewable energy producers who are qualifying facilities, as well as negotiate a price for that power.
"Innovative thinking has always been part of life in DMEA's territory, and renewable energy goes hand in hand with that. We now have significant opportunity to attract renewable energy developers to the area and buy more of our power locally," said Bronec. "This minimizes DMEA's potential risk of increases in wholesale power costs and boosts our local economies."
In addition to renewable energy development, co-ops are pursuing energy efficiency programs and innovations to help members reduce their bills. DMEA, like many co-ops, views efficiency as a key component in a broader strategy to meet the challenges of growing electricity demand and rising costs.