Energy experts discuss reliability challenges, solutions - Great River Energy

Energy experts discuss reliability challenges, solutions

As the energy industry continues to evolve, electric cooperatives are ensuring their members are kept up to date on major topics that are currently affecting — or could, in the future — their particular region.

One of the ways cooperatives are engaging their membership on current trends and topics is by hosting events that gather industry experts, co-op representatives, community leaders and local residents.

Lake Region Electric Cooperative (LREC), one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives, recently hosted its third annual Energy Forum at Thumper Pond Resort to provide an opportunity for cooperative members to gain a better understanding on an array of topics, including power supply and transmission planning, reliability, renewable energy, hydropower and electric vehicles.

LREC Chief Executive Officer Tim Thompson started the event by sharing multiple recent headlines that touched on some of the changes facing utilities. He shared with the approximately 115 attendees the importance of member engagement and highlighted LREC’s strategy of striving to be its members’ local, trusted source of information.

Attendees also heard from Jim Matheson, chief executive officer for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), who discussed challenges such as an increased demand for electricity and policy changes directed at utilities.

Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Transmission Officer Priti Patel speaks to the approximately 115 attendees of the Energy Forum hosted last month at Thumper Pond Resort.

“All cooperatives have the same mission of providing reliable and affordable power,” Matheson said. “Demand for electricity is skyrocketing. There is a big drive to use electricity in applications that weren’t used for electricity in the past.”

Leadership from Great River Energy spoke at the event as well, including Vice President and Chief Transmission Officer Priti Patel, Vice President and Chief Power Supply Officer Jon Brekke, and Resource Planning Director Zac Ruzycki.

Patel discussed how more transmission is needed for providing reliable and affordable power, especially as the electric system evolves with more renewable energy resources, such as wind farms.

Brekke explained the intricacies of MISO, which is the organization that maintains reliability across 15 states and Manitoba, Canada.

Brekke and Ruzycki shared that Great River Energy is changing its power supply portfolio to be in alignment with the Minnesota carbon-free standard but cautioned that challenges remain.

“Great River Energy is well equipped to meet Minnesota’s carbon free standard goal of 90% by 2035,” Ruzycki said. “Reaching 100% is more challenging.”

After the speakers, there was a round of questions as well as breakout sessions to dive into deeper discussion on specific topics.

“It was like a college course,” said LREC member Marian Bongenreif, who had also attended another event sponsored by the cooperative. “It was so inspiring.”

Visit to view a recording of the event.

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