Annual meeting details financial stability, progressive strategy

Great River Energy shares record of success and projects optimistic future for the cooperative and its membership

Once a year, cooperatives open their doors to their members to share information, answer questions and hold elections. Great River Energy delivered on its cooperative promise to members during its annual meeting on June 5.

Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau addresses nearly 200 attendees at the cooperative’s 2019 annual meeting.

“Great River Energy is stronger than ever,” said Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau. “Our management team is experienced, our generation and transmission resources are operating with excellence, our employees are happy and healthy, our rates are stable, and we are responding appropriately to the changes occurring in our industry.”

Nearly 200 attendees, which included member-owner cooperative directors, banking relations and other industry partners, heard about innovative projects and thoughtful decisions that have left Great River Energy well positioned to serve its members.

Great River Energy is reducing its debt, right-sizing its power supply portfolio and making cost-effective investments in renewable energy.

Saggau unveiled Great River Energy’s wholesale rate forecast, which showed rates holding steady for the next decade and contributing toward an improving competitive position in the Midwest. Great River Energy’s wholesale electric rate is 7.2 percent lower than the weighted regional average cost of wholesale power.

Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Michelle Strobel reviewed financial results for 2018, perhaps the strongest financial year in the cooperative’s history.

“Our financial performance was exceptional, and we achieved some long-term financial milestones ahead of schedule,” said Strobel. “As a result, Great River Energy retired patronage capital through cash payments to its member-owner cooperatives for the first time.”

After reaching 20 percent equity at the end of 2018, Great River Energy returned $15 million to members in March.

Great River Energy Board Chair Bob Bruckbauer shared a message of unity among cooperative members, highlighting examples of challenges overcome through collaboration among cooperatives.

“Like all cooperatives, Great River Energy serves its members best when we all work together. Great River Energy’s relationship with its membership is what makes our organization strong,” Bruckbauer said. “Our financial and operational success are a testament to the success of our cooperative structure.”

Great River Energy reiterated a goal announced at its 2018 annual meeting to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Saggau detailed the cooperative’s long history with renewable energy and upcoming projects that have Great River Energy on track to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Here is a video detailing Great River Energy’s renewable energy portfolio:

During the board of directors’ reorganization meeting following the annual meeting, Robert Bruckbauer (Lake Country Power, Grand Rapids) was re-elected board chair; Dale Anderson (Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, Spicer) was re-elected board vice chair; Audrey Hjelle (Runestone Electric Association, Alexandria) was re-elected secretary, and Lee York (Nobles Cooperative Electric, Worthington) was re-elected treasurer.

In addition to the officers, the following directors were elected to Great River Energy’s 24-member board:

  • Mike Littfin, Arrowhead Cooperative, Inc., Lutsen
  • Gary Stenzel, BENCO Electric Cooperative, Mankato
  • Reuben Kokesch, Brown County Rural Electrical Association, Sleepy Eye
  • Fran Bator, Connexus Energy, Ramsey
  • Don Holl, Connexus Energy, Ramsey
  • Peggy Kuettel, Cooperative Light & Power, Two Harbors
  • Margaret Schreiner, Dakota Electric Association, Farmington
  • Clay Van De Bogart, Dakota Electric Association, Farmington
  • Joe Morley, East Central Energy, Braham
  • Don Swanson, East Central Energy, Braham
  • David Hernke, Goodhue County Cooperative Electric Association, Zumbrota
  • Nancy Utke, Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Electrical Association, Park Rapids
  • Craig Olson, Lake Country Power, Grand Rapids
  • Denny Tollefson, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Pelican Rapids
  • Randy Hlavka, McLeod Cooperative Power Association, Glencoe
  • Harold Harms, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, Aitkin
  • Bruce Leino, North Itasca Electric Cooperative, Inc., Bigfork
  • Mike Blenkush, Stearns Electric Association, Melrose
  • Gary Wilson, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, Owatonna
  • Michael Thorson, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, Wadena