Voluntary goal will more than double current renewable energy supply
Great River Energy today announced a company goal to supply its member-owner cooperatives with energy that is 50 percent from renewable resources by 2030. The announcement was made to more than 200 attendees at the cooperative’s annual meeting.
“Great River Energy has already met Minnesota’s 25 percent renewable energy standard eight years ahead of requirements. We continue to evolve our power supply portfolio, delivering even more renewable energy to our member-owner cooperatives to help them remain competitive in a changing market,” said Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau. “We look forward to meeting this goal for the benefit of our members while maintaining strong system reliability.”
Today’s announcement also established interim renewable energy goals for Great River Energy of 30 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025.
The announcement of the 50 percent renewable goal comes at a time when home- and business-owners are increasingly interested in having more renewables in their energy supplies. Increasing renewables can present advantages to cooperatives for attracting and retaining business as well as meeting the expectations of members who value renewable energy.
“I applaud the leadership and strategic vision that this announcement by Great River Energy represents. Consumers of all kinds—companies, cities, governments and households—are asking for more renewable energy, and competing for their loyalty and selling them more electricity for more uses will increasingly hinge on it being as clean and close to zero-carbon as it can be,” said Rolf Nordstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Great Plains Institute. “Less carbon, more electricity—that’s the future for smart utilities.”
Mounting research suggests that electrifying certain parts of the economy – using electric technologies to replace the use of fossil fuels – is necessary to achieve ambitious carbon emissions reduction goals worldwide. This is often referred to as beneficial or efficient electrification within the utility industry.
“We at the Center for Energy and Environment applaud Great River Energy’s announcement today to have 50 percent of their electricity be generated by renewable resources by 2030. This commitment is another example of their long tradition as a national leader on utility innovation,” said Mike Bull, director of policy and external affairs at the Center for Energy and Environment. “As a member-owned generation and transmission cooperative, Great River Energy exists to serve the interests of their member-owners, and adding more low-cost renewable energy clearly serves those interests. Bravo, Great River 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. These measures have resulted in a 35 percent reduction in Great River Energy’s carbon dioxide emissions since 2005.
Great River Energy has exited two contracts for coal-based electricity in recent years and, in 2017, retired a North Dakota power plant owned by the cooperative. Improvements at Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station power plant have reduced the plant’s emissions of sulfur dioxide and mercury by up to 40 percent, nitrogen oxides by 20 percent and carbon dioxide by 4 percent in recent years, while operational adjustments allow the plant to ramp down production when market conditions warrant.
Great River Energy’s renewable portfolio currently includes 468 megawatts (MW) of wind energy, 200 MW of hydropower, 4 MW of solar and 30 MW of biomass. Great River Energy has announced plans for an additional 300 MW of favorably priced wind energy by 2020.
“Renewable energy, particularly wind, is currently our lowest-cost option for new generation resources,” Saggau said.
In its 2017 integrated resource plan filing to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Great River Energy projected wind energy as its sole new resource need over the next 15 years. Great River Energy will continue to maintain a diverse portfolio in order to best serve its member-owner cooperatives.