Roadmap Provides Steps to Ensure United Power’s Future as an Industry Leader
The rapid progression of the electric industry is requiring utilities to respond proactively and adapt quickly if they want to maintain a competitive advantage. United Power developed Our Cooperative Roadmap (Roadmap) as an ever-evolving action plan, directing the cooperative’s steps to ensure its future as an industry leader in power supply innovation, an early adopter of system enhancing technology, and a desirable electric utility for both new and existing members.
The Roadmap was the result of a coordinated effort by cooperative staff and the United Power Board to identify important focal points and make them a priority in any decision that has long-term impacts to the cooperative. Staff developed a set of principles that would guide the team in defining, implementing, and evaluating four main areas, known as pillars:
- Reliability. Striving to deliver high-quality, uninterrupted service to our members through the design, operation, protection, and maintenance of a failure-resistant and resilient electric distribution system.
- Affordability. Continually seeking fair and equitable wholesale rates, manage distribution costs in a highly efficient manner, and responsibly allocate those costs across our membership with stable and transparent rate options.
- Flexibility. Demonstrate maximum agility and adaptiveness through forward-looking plans; versatile, innovative programs and business models; and diverse power supply options as we respond to changes in our environment and the needs of our members and community.
- Responsibility. Act honestly, ethically, sustainably, and in the best interest of our members and communities as we manage operations and secure resources.
The Roadmap’s four pillars stretch across the core functions of the cooperative, including energy costs, system reliability and resiliency, data safety and security, member programs, and United Power’s commitment to the members and communities it serves.
Flexible, Affordable, & Sustainable Power Supply
United Power is committed to sourcing power supply options that keep rates affordable for its members. That is why leadership filed a notice of intent to withdraw from its wholesale power contract, effective May 1, 2024.
Under the existing contract, United Power is paying between $11-13 million above market value for transmission costs. The restrictive contract also caps locally sourced power at just 5% of the cooperative’s total load. More local generation would lower costs and expand member options. Cooperative leadership attempted to negotiate a revised “partial requirements” contract before announcing its exit. It would have produced a mutually beneficial outcome — continuing the existing relationship while allowing United Power to explore and purchase lower cost, cleaner power options.
While the cooperative awaits a final determination on its exit fee from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, it began accepting and evaluating proposals from prospective power supply providers. United Power hopes to select a supplier, or group of suppliers, and begin contract negotiations later this year. Updates on United Power’s power supply journey are available here.
Optimizing the Electric Distribution System
Colorado continues to see significant growth and expansion along its northern Front Range, where most of United Power’s members live and work. Because of this growth, the co-op must maintain its robust and resilient distribution system to ensure reliable power is available with as few interruptions as possible. We understand this is our members’ expectation and it is our priority.
United Power has implemented a new maintenance strategy and deployed hundreds of innovative field devices throughout the distribution system. This combination allows the cooperative to obtain detailed statistical data and identify weaker points on the system to target them for improvement. It also gives the operations team more options for power restoration, sometimes without having to send crews to the field. Over the past several years, United Power’s outage times have fallen well below the national average, reflecting the success of this new strategy and field devices.
Cooperatives like United Power are only as strong as the communities they serve, which is why we are committed to actively engaging with our members and promoting the growth and development of our communities.
United Power is a proud supporter of community events that offer family fun and celebrate each city or town’s unique and rich history. We also have a seat at the table of local chambers, where our input helps guide economic development decisions.
The co-op recognizes the leaders who will guide our communities in the future are currently students at local schools. To support future community leaders, we distribute more than $20,000 in scholarships annually. We also provide students with annual leadership training opportunities in Washington, D.C. and Steamboat Springs.
Achieve Business Agility & Resilience Through IT/OT
Computerized systems allow United Power to see in-depth information about grid performance, provide members with information about consumption habits, and limit outage times.
We are already deploying sophisticated systems, but technology is advancing rapidly. New technology that offers even greater insight may be on the horizon. We are constantly looking for options that enable us to better serve members.