Great River Energy: Competitive rates and growing renewables

For 20 years, Great River Energy has provided electricity to 28 member-owner cooperatives while pursuing its mission to generate and transmit reliable and affordable electricity in harmony with a sustainable environment.

Great River Energy receives electricity from power plants, wind farms, solar installations and hydroelectric facilities. It also operates and maintains thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines.

Like all cooperatives, Great River Energy serves its members best when it maintains strong financial results. 2018 was one of the best financial years in company history.

Strong sales and cost controls propelled Great River Energy’s 2018 margins well in excess of budget. As a result, Great River Energy reached 20 percent equity, accomplishing a goal it established more than 15 years ago. Great River Energy will now deliver on its cooperative promise to members and begin returning cash to member-owner cooperatives in 2019.

Ambitious plans for renewable energy

Nearly 15 years of experience with renewable energy has given Great River Energy a deep understanding of the economics and operations of wind energy. After accomplishing Minnesota’s 25 percent renewable energy goal in 2017 – eight years ahead of the state’s requirement – the cooperative decided to push itself even further.

50 by 30Great River Energy will provide 50 percent renewable energy to its all-requirements member-owner cooperatives by 2030. The cooperative decided to ramp up renewables because members are increasingly interested in electricity with a lower environmental effect, as long as it remains affordable and reliable. Increasing renewables can present advantages to cooperatives for attracting and retaining businesses as well as meeting the expectations of members who value green energy.

Great River Energy has spent more than a decade positioning its portfolio, lowering costs and reducing dependence on coal as a fuel source, while improving the overall flexibility of its generation portfolio. Great River Energy has exited two contracts for coal-based electricity in recent years and retired a coal power plant in 2017.

These and other environmental measures are having a positive effect. Great River Energy emitted 38 percent less carbon dioxide in 2018 than it did in 2005.

Over the course of 74 days this spring, Great River Energy will complete some of the most critical work in its history with the construction of the HVDC system upgrade. This team of employees has worked on this project for the past several years. Back row from left to right: Dustin Neubauer, Tony Geldert, Jud Goerss and Doug Ritter. Front row from left to right: Greg Schutte, Carole Lefebvre and Richard Fitzpatrick.

Over the course of 74 days this spring, Great River Energy will complete some of the most critical work in its history with the construction of the HVDC system upgrade. This team of employees has worked on this project for the past several years includes Dustin Neubauer, Tony Geldert, Jud Goerss, Doug Ritter, Greg Schutte, Carole Lefebvre and Richard Fitzpatrick.

Keeping rates competitive

While Great River Energy strives to improve how it generates and delivers energy, it also makes certain the cost of electricity remains competitive. Great River Energy’s wholesale electric rates remain well below the weighted regional average.

Perhaps more importantly, rates are stable. Great River Energy projects rate increases significantly below the anticipated rate of inflation for a decade. For 2019, Great River Energy’s wholesale rates have declined.

Reinvesting in a critical asset

Great River Energy has spent seven years laying the groundwork for an upgrade of its high-voltage, direct-current transmission system between North Dakota and Minnesota. In the spring of 2019, conversion equipment – the equipment that converts alternating-current power to direct-current power and vice versa – is being replaced with today’s technology.

The upgrade is one of the biggest capital projects Great River Energy has undertaken in recent years. It is expected to produce returns for the cooperative by extending the life of the system, maintaining reliability and improving efficiency.

Honoring members’ investment

Great River Energy employees are challenged to discover better ways to do their jobs. In 2018, implementing new processes resulted in savings of $33 million—the second highest annual savings total through Great River Energy’s business improvement culture. Business improvements have resulted in more than $300 million in savings  and avoided costs for Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives since 2002.

Together with its member-owner cooperatives, Great River Energy is advancing new technologies and capabilities on the electric grid to improve service, reduce costs and enable new efficient uses of electricity.

Great River Energy is well positioned to serve members with reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy long into the future.