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CEO Column: A technological revolution is taking place


A technological revolution is taking place, and we need to adapt

May 1, 2024

There was a time when the bill from Trico was simply called “the light bill”. This is because lighting was the primary thing for which people needed electricity. But the behind-the-meter world underwent a technological revolution, and electricity became the lifeblood of homes, businesses, farms, and ranches.

A similar shift is occurring today. A technological revolution is creating new forms of energy generation, storage and other grid-enabling services that are changing the operation of the grid from a simple “generate-transmit-distribute” model into something more complex that, if properly leveraged, can deliver vast amounts of value to Members.

In most respects, energy has always been sold as a service. Members do not buy electrons as much as they buy lighting, heating, cooling and now charging services, that are provided by equipment that uses electricity. Electricity consumption in effect is the consumption of energy services.

The Trico electricity system on which our Members depend is changing, powered by technological innovations, increased use of distributed energy resources (DER), and changing Member needs and preferences in an increasingly connected world.

The increasing demand for system reliability and carbon reduction, coupled with the increasing capabilities of DERs, means new price signals are necessary. Rate designs need to follow suit to encourage the beneficial adoption of modern technologies, like electric vehicles and DER. In other words, rate design is a significant part of the changes needed to modernize our grid. Fred Butler, former President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, once said, “You can’t have a smart grid with dumb rates.”

While there are benefits to a straight-forward rate design for Members who want something simple, Trico believes that price structures should evolve towards time-varying prices (TVPs), which recognize that prices are higher when member demand on the system is higher.

Trico has invested in foundational technologies such as advanced metering infrastructure and meter data management systems, which make TVPs possible.

TVPs can take many forms but they work by pricing electricity higher at times when demand on the system is high, incentivizing Members to reduce their electricity use when it is most expensive to generate or when there are capacity constricts on the transmission or distribution system. This reduces stress on the power grid and lowers wholesale energy and capacity costs by reducing the need for inefficient and costly peaking plants. TVPs can allow engaged Members to capture benefits of managing their energy use, and by reducing demand they can produce savings for all Members.

We want to offer options to our Members and provide programs that serve our mission of cost‑effective and sustainable energy solutions. We can tailor rates that help Members and benefit the entire system, and we are committed to doing so. Thank you for being a valued Member.

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CEO Column: A Big Win for Trico Members


Trico is awarded $83.5 million to fund four renewable energy and battery projects

April 1, 2024

Trico was one of five cooperatives across the country selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to move forward in the award process for the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program.

Trico’s projects include the following:

Arivaca Rural Microgrid: A microgrid with 3MW of solar generation and 3MW/12MWh of battery storage capacity, designed to serve the load of approximately 620 residents in Arivaca. A microgrid is a power system that can be detached from the main electric grid either full time or for a specific event, like a power outage. This project is designed to use renewable energy and battery technology to improve reliability and resilience, especially during extreme weather events like monsoons. Trico also received a $7 million grant from the Department of Energy for this project.

Trico Standalone Battery Energy Storage System: This 10MW/40MWh battery storage system will help Trico manage its peaks and save Members money by charging the battery when solar energy is plentiful and prices are low, and discharging energy during peaks when market prices are high. The project will be located on the northwest side of Trico’s service territory where rapid growth is increasing demand.

Avion Solar and Battery Energy Storage Facility II: A facility with 10MW of solar generation and 10MW/40MWh of battery storage capacity. The project will be located near Trico’s existing Avion Solar and Battery Energy Storage Facility in Marana and will be capable of powering about 2,500 homes. 

Valencia Solar and Battery Energy Storage Facility: A facility with 10MW of solar generation and 10MW/40MWh of battery storage capacity. The project will be located near Trico’s Valencia Substation and will be capable of powering about 2,500 homes.

Trico expects to develop and build the PACE projects over the next five years working with regional partners and the community to locate the projects and maximize their effectiveness. Development work will start immediately.

PACE is a big win for Trico Members and we are excited to be working with USDA and Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The projects Trico is planning to build will provide cost‑effective, sustainable energy solutions and benefit our Members for decades to come.

Captions:

In support of Trico’s $83.5 million Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) award, Trico Staff and Board welcomed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary Dr. Basil Gooden to Trico’s headquarters on March 14, 2024. Trico provided a tour of the Avion Solar and Battery Energy Storage Facility to Under Secretary Gooden, USDA officials, and local and statewide representatives.

Top right: Under Secretary Dr. Basil Gooden (center) with Eric Hawkins, Trico COO and General Counsel, and Brian Heithoff, Trico CEO and GM, tours Trico’s Avion Solar and Battery Energy Storage Facility. Bottom right: Following the tour, Trico hosted a roundtable discussion regarding Trico’s four clean energy PACE projects.

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CEO Column: 2024 Annual Meeting


CEO Column: Join Us at the Annual Meeting

February 1, 2024

Get involved! Join us at the Annual Meeting

Every Trico employee is dedicated to our mission: Making a difference in the communities we serve by providing our Members cost-effective and sustainable energy solutions. One way we live that mission is by engaging with you, our Members, to better understand your needs and strive to exceed your expectations.  

With that in mind, one of my favorite events is coming up on April 6, 2024, when Trico will host our Annual Meeting. I always look forward to this event because it’s a great opportunity for our Board of Directors and employees to talk with our Members, hear what’s on their minds, and update Members on our plans for this year and the years to come.

We hope you’ll join us for our Annual Meeting. The business section of the Annual Meeting starts at 11 a.m. at Casino del Sol Resort. Registration will open at 9 a.m., and Members can check out our informational booths and workshops from 9–11 a.m. There will be food, raffle prizes, and trees for sale. Please remember, you must be present to win prizes and please bring a copy of your bill for fast check-in. For those who are unable to attend in person, we also offer a virtual option via Facebook Live.

Whether you attend in person or online, we thank you in advance for coming to the Annual Meeting. As a cooperative, we thrive when our Members get involved. Spending time with you and hearing your take on our community’s energy future is vital to helping us understand how we can best serve your needs.

As I have noted in this column in prior months, the energy industry is in the midst of massive changes. Our Members’ needs are changing, technology is changing, and these changes impact nearly every aspect of how we manage and deliver energy solutions to local homes, schools and businesses. We are ready for the challenge and excited to share updates about Trico’s financial strength, significant projects, and plans to continue providing cost-effective, sustainable, and innovative energy solutions into the future. I hope to see you on April 6, 2024.

You have a say

You may be wondering if your opinion really makes a difference at Trico. I am happy to say YES, it does! In fact, your opinion is essential, because everything we do is shaped by the Members we serve.

Electric co-ops are democratically controlled by the Members we serve, which means you have a say in who governs our co-op. By voting in the annual director election, you can weigh in on the leaders who will make important decisions about the future of the cooperative and how Trico serves your energy needs.

Our board of directors is comprised of seven Members who live and work right here in our local service area, so they are in the best position to know where community investments are most needed. We hope you’ll consider running for the board in the future, and for this year we encourage you all to vote.

We want to make voting as convenient as possible for our Members, so we offer a variety of ways for you to participate. If you join us at the Annual Meeting on April 6, you can cast your vote in person. If you’re unable to attend, you can vote using the SmartHub app or on our website at www.trico.coop. Voting on the website and SmartHub will be available starting February 12, 2024.  

The right to vote for representation on Trico’s board of directors is one of the most significant benefits of being a Member of a cooperative. We hope you’ll exercise the benefits of your co-op membership, vote, and join us for the Annual Meeting on April 6. We look forward to seeing you. Thank you for being a Member.

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CEO Column: Innovating for Our Members


Innovating for Our Members

January 1, 2024

Since Trico was formed over 75 years ago, we have been focused on using technology, creativity, and hard work to improve the lives of our Members. From those early days to now, Trico employees have shared a commitment to providing Members with innovative energy solutions. Back then it was bringing power to areas that never had electricity before; now it includes adding cost-effective, sustainable resources, and in the coming years it will include programs to empower our Members to design their service to meet their unique needs.

Innovation is one of Trico’s core values, and something we talk about every day. We are always striving to improve the cooperative and better serve our Members. As we look forward to 2024, I want to share a few of the ways Trico is innovating to build a more resilient and reliable grid, and meet our Members needs.

The Grid of the Future

Trico is enhancing its reliability by replacing existing Oil Circuit Reclosers (OCRs) with Automated Vacuum Reclosers (AVRs). In the coming years, Trico will replace 96 OCRs with AVRs to improve the system’s capacity, reliability, and resilience. Reclosers are high-voltage switches designed to automatically address disturbances on the grid. If a problem is temporary and resolves quickly, the recloser automatically resets itself and restores power, without a need for manual intervention. Installing AVRs will reduce maintenance requirements, give grid operators greater visibility and control of the system, and allow Trico to set up protection profiles to reduce the frequency and length of outages.

Power Supply

Innovation on power supply is all about balance. Trico is continuing to add solar generation and battery storage, supporting Members who choose to install solar at their homes and businesses, and working with our generation partners to invest in new efficient natural gas technology. The goal of this diverse portfolio is to provide reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable service to our Members.

In early 2024, Trico will complete installation of a 10MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at Trico’s Sahuarita Substation. The Sahuarita BESS will be able to power around 2,500 homes for about four hours. The BESS will allow Trico to buy and store energy when wholesale prices are low, which will help Trico avoid expensive market purchases and save money for all Members.

Stay tuned for future updates on additional power supply projects that will be completed or started in 2024. Throughout the year we will be sharing details on several projects that will help Trico meet our goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2032, while ensuring reliable service and affordable prices.

Rate Options

Trico is working to develop a variety of rate options that will provide our Members with choice, and empower Members to better manage their energy usage. The new rates will include additional options for Members with electric vehicles, options for those who want to serve their load with more renewable energy, and other options to help Members tailor their service to match their lifestyle.

The New Year brings hope, opportunities, and new challenges, and Trico is ready to take on the year with a spirit of service and innovation. As always, we are thankful for the opportunity to serve you, our Members. Happy New Year from Trico!


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CEO Column: Reliable power for today and tomorrow


CEO Column: Reliable power for today — and tomorrow

December 1, 2023

Ringing in a new year sparks a sense of renewed hope and optimism about the future. As the CEO/General Manager of Trico, for me, it’s a time to reflect on where we are and where we’re going. At the heart of this reflection, I think about ways we can better serve you, the Members of the cooperative.

Our team at Trico is always looking ahead, exploring ways to innovate and utilize new technologies to improve our services. As our nation increasingly relies on electricity to power the economy, keeping the lights on has never been more important. We’re dedicated to making a difference in the communities we serve by providing our Members cost-effective and sustainable energy solutions.

I want to share some statistics with you that describe where we are and where we are going. These facts show Trico is in a strong position to support the needs of our Members and the communities we serve, and ready for the challenges of the coming years. In the coming months, I will continue to share information about Trico’s future and how we are performing. I hope this will confirm for you that serving our Members’ best interest is our top priority. 

One critical component of reliable power is the mix of energy resources used to generate electricity. Trico purchases power from a diverse mix of providers and some of the energy we provide is generated on Trico’s own system. Trico is increasing the amount of renewable energy used to serve its Members with the goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2032. At the same time, we are also adding new high-efficiency natural gas units, in partnership with Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, to help support the needs of the system. Our current energy resource mix is made up of 33 percent renewables, 31 percent coal/steam, 30 percent natural gas and six percent hydropower.

We devote a lot of attention to keeping costs down to support our Members. Trico is in the top 20% of U.S. electric cooperatives in terms of greatest number of Members served per employee. Our employees are a high-achieving, diverse group and they display the cooperative spirit every day. We get a lot done while controlling costs!

When we talk about sustainable energy, that also means reliability. Over the last five years from 2018-2022, our Members have experienced over 90 minutes less outage time per year, than the median cooperative in the U.S. We know you rely on us to keep the lights on, and we take that responsibility seriously. Every department at Trico contributes to this reliability, and we aim to be even better.

Another measure of success is the amount of Membership Equity we return to our Members. Trico has returned Membership Equity for 14 years in a row, and this year Trico is giving back $5.4 million to its Members. That is $5.4 million that will stay in our local communities and help our Members.

As we turn our focus to 2024, Trico will continue working to provide the reliable, affordable electricity you expect and deserve—for today and tomorrow. On behalf of Trico’s employees and Board of Directors, I wish all of you a healthy, peaceful and prosperous holiday season. We look forward to serving you in 2024.

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CEO Column: Cost-Effective, Sustainable Power


A balanced approach to cost-effective, sustainable power

April 26, 2023

Have you ever considered how handy it is to flip a switch or push a button and have instant conveniences?

It seems so simple; you get a little cold or hot, you bump your thermostat up or down; your family gets hungry, you grab food from your refrigerator and heat it up in the microwave or cook a meal on your stove; stressful day at work, you jump into a hot tub of water.

Electricity is one of those reliable and instant conveniences. More than that, it is necessary to support our daily lives and plays a vital role in powering our future (think electric vehicles, heat pumps, and smart home devices).

Trico takes our responsibility to deliver cost-effective and sustainable power to our Members very seriously. I’d like to use this month’s column to make the point that to accomplish cost-effective AND sustainable, it requires a balanced portfolio of renewable and non-renewable sources, at least for the near and medium term.

As many of you know, there are various methods of electricity generation.

Dispatchable resources include coal and natural gas, which are used to generate electricity by combustion (thermal power). Nuclear power can also be generated through nuclear fission using uranium, the heat of which raises the temperature of water and rotates a steam turbine.

Among renewable energies, sunlight is directly converted into electricity (photovoltaics), rotation energy by wind is converted into electricity (wind power), and rotating water wheels are turned by running water to generate (hydro).

Each technology has its strengths and weaknesses, and currently there is no single source of power that can solve Trico’s mission to be cost-effective AND sustainable all on its own. A quick review of the weaknesses of each technology shows that a diverse mix of resources is vital.

  • Nuclear – Expensive, and hard to finance or site.
  • Coal – Emits carbon and is difficult to adjust to changing load requirements.
  • Wind and Solar – Intermittent, because the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine all hours of the day. Coupling these resources with battery storage helps, but given current technology 24/7 coverage with batteries is not cost effective or practical.
  • Hydro – Subject to water availability and impactful on the environment.
  • Natural Gas – Cost is subject to natural gas markets which can be volatile and emits carbon (although substantially less than coal).

So, what do we do?

It is Trico’s goal to reduce our carbon emissions by 50% by 2032. This will result in increased sustainability at a reasonable cost. We have committed to this goal because it serves our mission, not because of any regulatory requirement. We don’t dispute the importance of transitioning our generation mix over time, and our resource planning shows it can be done in a cost-effective manner. It may be counter-intuitive, but we are also including natural gas generation in our plans. Natural gas generation can ramp up at any time of the day to meet Members’ swings in power usage and to adjust to changing weather. This is necessary to help us meet your power requirements 24/7, 365.

Could we reduce our carbon emissions faster? It may be possible but is not practical. With current technology, the result would be increased costs and/or hours during the year in which power may not be available, and because of supply chain issues related to renewable generation equipment the facilities required might not even be able to be built by the time needed.

Which leads to the point of this column, in order to accomplish sustainability AND cost effectiveness, it requires a mix of multiple generation resources. That has been our strategy in the past and is our strategy moving forward, all to meet our Members’ evolving energy needs. We know you depend on us and it is our privilege to serve our Members and our community.

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CEO Column: 2023 Annual Meeting


You’re invited to our Annual Meeting on April 1, 2023

February 23, 2023

Most consumers likely don’t equate active involvement with their electric company with helping their community. But Trico is not an ordinary utility company. We’re a cooperative, and our business model is meant to serve our Members.

Spending time with you and hearing your take on our community’s energy future is important to us. We hope you will be able to attend the Trico Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 1, 2023 at Casino del Sol Resort. We’re starting the meeting an hour later than usual at 11 a.m. We hope the time change will allow more Members to attend.

The Annual Meeting is your chance as a Member to learn about your electric cooperative, make your voice heard, and meet the faces behind the cooperative. The meeting will include a report on Trico’s efforts to serve its Members’ interests and provide cost-effective, reliable and sustainable energy solutions. There will be food, raffle prizes and trees for sale. You must be present to win the prizes.

The Annual Meeting is also a time for Members to vote for your Board of Directors. There are two Board of Director positions up for re-election: District 3 (Avra Valley, Picture Rocks, Star Valley) and District 6 (Corona de Tucson, Vail). The director seats will be formally elected at the Annual Meeting. Members can vote at the Annual Meeting. For Members who prefer online voting or are unable to attend the meeting, online voting is available on our website at www.trico.coop/annual-meeting through March 29, 2023 at 11 a.m.

The board of directors is comprised of seven Members who live and work right here in our local service area, so they are in the best position to know where community investments are most needed. We hope you’ll consider running for the board in the future – we’re always looking for folks who care about our community and who are willing to serve.

Every year, we invest funds to make updates to our local system, which helps maintain reliability and grid resilience. Think of it this way: every time you pay your electric bill, you’re investing in your community because all the money we take in goes to improve the local community. By making these investments in our local system, we can ensure you have reliable power for everyday life.

We hope you’ll exercise the benefits of your co-op membership and join us for the Annual Meeting on April 1, 2023. We look forward to seeing you!

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CEO Column: We’re Looking Out for Your Interests


CEO Column: We’re Looking Out for Your Interests

January 24, 2023

We’re looking out for your interests

Trico is dedicated to making a difference in the communities we serve by providing our Members cost-effective and sustainable energy solutions.

It’s a new year and we want you to know that we are always looking out for your interests. As a non-profit, our focus is on how we can better serve you, our Members. Here’s a look back at what we accomplished in 2022. 

Capital Credits: In December, Trico retired $4.25 million in Capital Credits to our Members. We are proud that this is Trico’s 13th straight year retiring Capital Credits. Since 2010, Trico has returned more than $32 million to its Members. Look on your December bill for your Capital Credit Retirement Allocation.

Renewable Energy: Trico continues to make community scale renewables part of its overall resource planning, to meet the energy needs of our Members now and in the future. In 2022, Trico installed our third community-scale solar project and first battery energy storage system. The Chirreon Solar & Battery Storage facility, located near SaddleBrooke, is a 10-megawatt photovoltaic solar generating facility and a 15-megawatt hour/30 MWh battery storage system. We have plans for more solar and battery projects to provide cost-effective and sustainable energy.

Community Giving: In 2022, the Trico Electric Charitable Trust awarded $70,000 in POWER Grants to non-profits providing critical services in southern Arizona. Since 2008, Trico’s POWER Grants program has provided $735,000 in funding to local non-profit organizations in our community. Our employees host food drives and other donation events throughout the year. For the holidays, employees donated cash and several boxes of toys for Toys for Tots.

Dependability: Trico is growing, along with many of the communities we serve. To keep up with this growth and maintain an excellent standard of reliability, Trico is investing almost $70 million over the next four years to continue improving our electric infrastructure. This includes upgrades to two existing substations (Green Valley Substation and Marana Substation) and installing a new substation delivery point (Adonis Substation, which will be north of Tangerine Road and east of I-10 in Marana).

Innovation: Our employees are always looking for new and innovative ways to serve our Members. We now produce a monthly Livewire video. We encourage you to follow us on social media to keep updated on what’s happening at Trico.

Thank you for being a Trico Member. We look forward to serving you in 2023.

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