Great River Energy: Powering what’s possible for its membership - Great River Energy

Great River Energy: Powering what’s possible for its membership

Great River Energy continues to transition its power supply portfolio to serve members and adapt to a changing market while charting a path to achieve carbon-free energy requirements — all while recording the strongest financial results in the organization’s history.

Great River Energy again rewarded its members’ investment in the cooperative by issuing $25 million in patronage capital returns in 2023. Historically strong margins allowed the cooperative to meet annual financial goals and reserve nearly $30 million to offset rates in the years ahead.

As a not-for-profit cooperative, Great River Energy operates at cost to keep rates low for its members. Its competitive advantage widened again in 2023 and Great River Energy currently offers wholesale electric rates approximately 20% below the weighted regional average.

Making electricity in new ways

Great River Energy has been thoughtfully planning and executing the transition of its power supply portfolio for more than a decade. The cooperative began 2023 by adding two new wind agreements to its growing portfolio of renewable resources that will collectively add more than 300 megawatts of nameplate generating capacity — and zero emissions.

Great River Energy now has power purchase agreements for the output of nine wind facilities located throughout Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas. Its portfolio of renewable resources combined with the ability to retire earned renewable energy credits puts the cooperative in a strong position to achieve Minnesota’s carbon-free standard.

Advancing the electric system

By making strategic investments in the grid, Great River Energy and its member-owners are helping keep electricity reliable and affordable as it reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

The Midwest grid operator identified an assortment of transmission projects that will be needed to continue safe and reliable electric service as the regional power system continues to evolve. Great River Energy is teaming up with Minnesota Power to build the Northland Reliability Project, an approximately 180-mile, double-circuit 345-kilovolt transmission line between northern and central Minnesota. When completed in 2030, the line will bolster the power grid in northern and central Minnesota by allowing more renewable energy sources to be delivered where needed.

Great River Energy is a member of Grid North Partners, a group of utilities that collaborate on projects to improve the electric system. The coalition announced 19 transmission upgrade projects that will reduce system congestion and allow the most economic generation, such as low-cost renewable energy, to serve an area.

Pursuing federal funding

Collaboration is not only a cooperative principle, but an important characteristic in Great River Energy’s pursuit of funding opportunities. Great River Energy, along with a majority of its member-owners, filed a Letter of Interest with the United States Department of Agriculture to participate in its Empowering Rural America (New ERA) program to become eligible for nearly $1 billion in federal funds to advance the work of Minnesota’s electric cooperatives in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and modernizing the region’s power grid.

The $9.7 billion New ERA program was created as part of the Inflation Reduction Act with the goal of helping rural America transition to cleaner, reliable and more affordable electricity.

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