A new way forward in environmental standards

A line technician works on a transmission line using a bucket truck.

Great River Energy is one of very few utilities in the country to have its transmission system ISO 14001 registered.

Bees, butterflies, eagles and moose. These are the majestic, native animals of Minnesota, and just like Great River Energy’s member cooperatives, they live in our local communities. But moose don’t care if you’ve met all your environmental permit requirements, and honey bees don’t measure whether or not a procedure was successful in making a positive environmental impact.

Utilities generate and transmit electricity in such a way that their operations affect society — and the environment — as a whole, and not just the members or customers they serve. For that reason, companies like Great River Energy are compelled to do more than simply meet environmental permitting requirements.

To that end, Great River Energy registered its transmission system in November to a new version of environmental standards called ISO 14001. Great River Energy has almost two decades of experience with the ISO registration, which began with Coal Creek Station being registered in 1999. Great River Energy first registered its transmission system in 2005, and is one of very few utilities in the country to have its transmission system ISO 14001 registered.

“Great River Energy wants to go beyond compliance,” said Greg Archer, leader, environmental support services. “The decision to go through the ISO registration for our transmission division was made in light of our triple bottom line of rates, reliability and environmental stewardship. Under the new standard, there is a greater emphasis on leadership and stakeholder engagement and actual environmental improvements.”

The ISO environmental audits were created to hold companies, usually multinational, to baseline standards. With different environmental regulations to contend with, companies that adhere to ISO 14001 standards want to show their commitment to environmental excellence.

Under the previous standards, the ISO 14001 auditors ensured processes and procedures were outlined and followed. However, in 2015, the standards were updated to help companies commit to making a positive environmental impact through greater leadership engagement and actual environmental impact improvements.