2019 outlook: lower rates, cash back

As a member of a cooperative, you get a voice, a vote and occasionally some money back. When members pay their electric bills, they become part owners of the business. When business is good, members get a return on that investment.

The same principles apply to Great River Energy, which is a cooperative owned by 28 other cooperatives.

Great River Energy expects to reach 20 percent equity at the end of 2018, achieving a goal set decades ago. As a result, Great River Energy will, for the first time in its 20-year history, return patronage capital, or cash back, to its member-owner cooperatives in 2019.

“The new year signals the start of a different financial era for Great River Energy,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Michelle Strobel. “Not only will we return patronage capital to our membership, the rates members pay for electricity are holding steady.”

Great River Energy’s average 2019 wholesale rate will decline 0.4 percent over the budgeted 2018 rate. The long-term outlook has improved as well. Great River Energy projects rates to increase less than 0.5 percent annually over the next 10 years.

This improved financial outlook is the result of sustained strong results stemming from cost-saving measures and strategic decisions to position Great River Energy’s generation portfolio. The exit of two coal-based power supply contracts and the retirement of Stanton Station have provided long-term rate relief for cooperative members.

“We have an important job for the members at the end of the line, and our employees take that responsibility seriously,” Strobel said. “Great River Energy is strong today because of hard work and wise decisions we have made in the best interest of our membership.”

Great River Energy’s member revenue requirement for next year is budgeted at $819.8 million, $30.5 million lower than the 2018 budget. This is primarily the result of expected savings in operations and maintenance spending.

Great River Energy’s 2019 budget includes $95 million of spending for new capital projects and a total capital spending budget of $179 million.