Energy forum highlights cooperative innovation

Great River Energy President and CEO David Saggau delivers the keynote address at the Center for Energy and Environment’s 2017 Energy Policy Forum on Jan. 12.

Great River Energy President and CEO David Saggau delivers the keynote address at the Center for Energy and Environment’s 2017 Energy Policy Forum on Jan. 12.

“Minnesota is home to some of the most well-run and innovative utilities in the nation,” said Center for Energy and Environment’s Mike Bull in his introduction of Great River Energy CEO David Saggau during last week’s CEE Energy Policy Forum.

Saggau delivered the keynote address at the event whose theme, “Electric Cooperatives Lead Minnesota Innovation,” focused on the accomplishments of Great River Energy and its member cooperatives.

“Electricity is a good choice,” Saggau told the nearly 200 attendees. “We are on track to meet our renewable energy targets. Our portfolio is getting cleaner. We want our members to use our product, but we want them to use it efficiently.”

Saggau spoke of the origins of electric cooperatives in the 1930s and 1940s, and articulated the differences between cooperatives and other utility types, such as cooperatives’ average of seven members per mile of line, compared to 34 and 48 for investor-owned and municipal utilities, respectively.

He also shared the new and innovative ways Great River Energy is serving its members, both on the electric system and through member-focused programs. Attendees learned about the environmental and efficiency benefits of the DryFiningTM fuel enhancement system, the value of adding flexibility to baseload power plants, and the combined heat and power attributes of Coal Creek Station and Spiritwood Station.

Saggau also shared his perspective on consumer trends Great River Energy is fostering with programs and research efforts.

“This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” Saggau said, referring to the electric vehicles enrolled in Great River Energy’s Revolt program, which provides renewable electricity for charging electric vehicles at no additional cost. “And, in many ways, Great River Energy is not your father’s electric cooperative.”

A panel of co-op experts

Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s Jim Horan and Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative CEO Ryan Hentges participated in a panel discussion with representatives from Wind on the Wires, CEE and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Horan detailed the innovations advanced by distribution cooperatives, while Hentges demonstrated the member value MVEC is producing through information technologies and data analytics.