Final budget projects steady rates in 2017 and beyond

The Great River Energy board of directors voted to approve the cooperative’s 2017 budget and rates at its November meeting.

Great River Energy’s revenue requirement for next year is budgeted at $999.8 million, a slight increase from $992.1 million budgeted for 2016. Great River Energy’s average wholesale rate is projected to increase 1.8 percent over the budgeted rate for 2016.

Minimizing increases to operating costs is especially important during the persistent trend of slow energy sales. Energy sales declined in 2016, year to date, and Great River Energy is projecting slim increases in the coming years.

“Our financial decisions in recent years have been focused on keeping costs as stable as possible over the long term,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Larry Schmid. “We expect rate increases at or below 2 percent over the next five years.”

Great River Energy’s Stanton Station power plant will no longer be operated as of May 1, 2017. That decision will reduce the cooperative’s expenses for operations and maintenance, fuel costs and ownership costs. Great River Energy also expects a decrease in revenue from the energy market as it will no longer be able to sell the plant’s output.

Great River Energy remains on track to meet its goal of 20 percent equity by 2020.

The 2017 capital budget includes nearly $200 million, nearly half of which will be invested in the transmission system. That includes the refurbishment of the high-voltage, direct-current system between Coal Creek Station and Minnesota, which has been in place since 1978.