PLATTE COUNTY — Rural residents in Platte County, as well as residents of Chugwater, will see an increase in electric utility bills through the Wheatland Rural Electric Association (WREA).
In a letter to WREA members, General Manager Jason Write explained WREA’s energy generator, Tri State Generation and Transmission, is increasing their rates 5.1 percent for all members of their cooperative. The WREA Board of Directors additionally voted to implement an additional half-percent increase, giving WREA members an average 5.6 percent total increase in their bills beginning the first of the year. The letter also explained the costs for “each rate class is dependent on how and when each rate class uses electricity …”
“The WREA Board of Directors and staff have not taken this decision lightly,” Wright said. “This decision was reached to ensure your Association remains financially stable and may continue to provide a safe and reliable system that each member … has come to rely on.”
Wright explained the rate change is a direct result of increases operating and material costs to keep the lines serviced and the power on, as well as the pressure from Colorado, New Mexico and Federal mandates to decrease reliance on coal and increase renewables. As a result, Wright said, “The prices have gone up tremendously for us. Some things have gone up 30, 40 or even 100 percent of what they were a few years ago, and Tri-State gets the same pressure. Both Tri-State and [WREA] have to increase rates to stay viable.”
WREA services 4,200 square miles in Platte, Goshen, Laramie, and Albany Counties, and gets power through Tri-State Generation and Transmission cooperative. One of several places that supplies power to the WREA lines comes from Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s generating facility at Laramie River Station in Wheatland.
Tri-State serves the states of Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and New Mexico. According to their website, Tri-State members “share in the benefits from a growing supply of emissions-free renewable energy, including hydropower, wind and solar, and from a highly dependable and cost-effective fleet of coal and natural gas power plants.” It further states they buy and sell power as efficiently as possible, to “determine the optimal mix of more than 30 generation sources to serve our members, and we look far ahead to ensure our members will have the reliable, low-cost energy they need for the future.”
The coal-fired Laramie River Station generates electricity for Basin Electric, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Assoc., The Lincoln Electric System, and Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency/Missouri River Energy Services. These cooperatives distribute power to their service areas throughout the great plains, and from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico.
Guernsey & Wheatland
Addressing questions about increases in electric utility bills, Guernsey Town Councilman Joe Michaels, who is also a representative on the Board of WMPA (Wyoming Municipal Power Agency), assured the public at a recent Guernsey Town Council meeting there will be no rate increases in Guernsey itself. The Town of Guernsey gets their energy through WMPA along with eight other towns in Wyoming (Pine Bluffs, Wheatland, Guernsey, Lusk, Fort Laramie, Lingle, Powell and Cody.) He explained other energy companies in the region are increasing their rates, like Rocky Mountain Power (RMP), a for-profit energy company from the West Coast. Michaels said RMP is reducing its sourcing of energy from coal, so must go to the open market to buy wind, solar and other alternative energy. Those alternative energies are not as reliable as coal, and it ends up costing more money for them.
Rocky Mountain Power is part of the PacifiCorp energy grid. RMP says on its website the company is “… already the largest regulated utility owner of wind power in the west … We’re significantly expanding our wind, solar and storage resources on our path to a net-zero emissions future.” RMP also says renewable energy is just part of its plan to reduce demand, modernize the grid, and “keep costs below industry averages.”
Their plan is spelled out in a graphic on their website that shows they want to have more than 20,000 MW of renewable resources by 2032 with non-carbon energy sources of hydro, geothermal, and nuclear resources. They expect those renewables to be placed near retiring coal plants in rural areas of Utah and Wyoming.
Michaels explained the Town of Guernsey is part of WMPA (as well as Wheatland). WMPA gets over 80 percent of their energy from Basin Electric Power Cooperative. He said there will not be an increase in electric utilities unless Basin Electric issues an increase, which he addressed directly. “Basin Electric is a [not-for-profit cooperative] that wants to hold down the price as much as possible. They are also not doing away with coal, but rather [to comply with requirements in the trend of alternative energy,] adding 850MW of wind energy to their portfolio.”
According to its website, WMPA power currently receives generated energy from 31 percent coal, 23 percent hydro, 20 percent wind, 17 percent natural gas, six percent market purchases and three percent oil/diesel/jet fuel. Their power sources are from Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Loveland Area Projects, and the Colorado River Storage Project.
Michaels said though there may [or may not] be a price increase sometime next year, WMPA works to hold the problems with inflation level. “The goal - the purpose - of WMPA is to provide stable, reliable, affordable energy, so don’t get too worried about what you read [elsewhere].”
Basin Electric reflects that goal, as stated on their website, “We know that our all-of-the-above energy strategy will continue to provide responsible, affordable, and reliable energy … We pursue a smart and affordable energy strategy and take advantage of the benefits of renewables while maintaining baseload that ensures the reliability or members expect.”
Residents in the Town of Glendo receive electricity through Rocky Mountain Power. They will not see rate increases any different than normal. Glendo Town Clerk Tristany Hoffman explained there is an annual three percent raise already built into the system of how Glendo assesses utilities for its citizens. Because of that, there will be no change in Glendo’s basic electric bill. A portion of Northeast Platte County in the rural Glendo area is supplied by Niobrara Electric. They did not respond to a phone inquiry concerning their rates.
Hartville is supplied by Wyrulec Company. According to General Manager Ryan Schilreff of Wyrulec, there will not be an increase in rates this year. “We are getting an increase from our wholesale power supplier of 7.5 percent. The Board voted to hold rates through this year, but there may be an increase in the year 2025 of around 3 – 5 percent.”
Schilreff added the Board understands inflation, and since there is also a change in the design of how their power supplier charges its rates, the Board wants to “see how that turns out” before they assess any changes for their own members down the road.