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by Emma Foehringer Merchant
August 24, 2018

In parts of the West, coal is still king.

That could soon change, however. Although Wyoming, the country’s largest coal-producing state, lies in the region, falling prices for renewables means Western utilities are increasingly looking toward clean energy to meet capacity needs. Current debates over regionalizing the Western grid have increased the potential pressure on the area’s coal plants, with the possibility that clean energy from states like California can more actively compete in states still reliant on coal.  

An analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute published this week examines the potential for Western cooperative utilities to transition to more clean energy resources. The report specifically looks at the Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, a co-op utility with 43 members in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming that serve 1 million consumers.

Using public data, it finds that by incorporating more renewables, Tri-State members could save $600 million by 2030.

“In the last six months to a year, we’ve just seen amazing low prices for renewables in this region of the country,” said Mark Dyson, a principal with RMI and an author of the report. “What we did in this analysis is to extrapolate from those prices what that would mean for a portfolio of generating assets. I think the total magnitude of savings is compelling; it is a little bit surprising, and to me it means there is cause for further study and collective action.”