DMEA Forum Focuses On FERC Petition And Broadband

Apr 16, 2015

The Delta Montrose Electric Association is a cooperative meaning its customers are its owners.

DMEA wants to hear what its consumers think about its desire to purchase more locally produced energy and it potentially entering the internet service game. 

An example of fiber optic cable shown at a meeting in Paonia.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Two months ago, DMEA filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 

"What we are asking FERC to rule on is to declare Tri-State a public utility which would allow us then to enter into agreements with qualifying facilities,"  DMEA CEO Jasen Bronec says.

He gave a presentation at the energy cooperative’s member forum Tuesday night in Paonia.

Bronec says that right now DMEA can only purchase five-percent of its energy from providers other than Tri-State, an association that provides electric power to cooperatives in four states.

However, DMEA might have found a way to get around that requirement.

"Tri-State has currently bought out of all of their government debt with the rural utility services," he says. "Between the fact that they don’t have any government debt and that they sell more than 400 million kilowatt hours under the rules we feel that they are now a public utility that's jurisdictional by FERC." 

Bronec says if FERC rules in DMEA’s favor the utility provider will be able to purchase more locally produced renewable energy.

Tom Stevens, a DMEA customer at the forum, supports this effort.

"For the good of the community, the membership and just the environment, it’s the thing to do," Stevens says.

The decision from FERC could come any day now.

Additionally, broadband was another focus of the meeting.

DMEA’s chief operating manger Steve Metheny gave a presentation on the cooperative potentially providing internet to its service area. 

"We have a lot of data that goes back and forth between our headquarters and substations and our related facilities," Metheny says. "We replaced some of those lease lines with fiber optic cable. And with that fiber optic cable, we think there's some additional capacity that we have that could be used by the community." 

He says DMEA has hired a consulting firm to help it analyze what would it take for the cooperative to provide internet.

Annette Choszczyk with the Delta County Library system hopes to see this happen.

"Right now we are having to we are having to pay a very high rate to have as high as speed of broadband as we have in our libraries, but this would greatly expand our ability to serve our patrons and to do our business," Choszcyk says.

According to DMEA membership survey results presented at the meeting, nearly 90 percent of polled customers say high-speed internet is an important quality of life factor. And, over half say they’d be interested in signing up for DMEA internet.

Cooperative officials say they hope to hold membership forums likes this one quarterly.