“Member Moment” highlights one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives and how they uniquely demonstrate what it means to be a cooperative.
Dakota Electric Association (DEA) is the second largest electric cooperative in Minnesota and ranked among the 25 largest
electric distribution cooperatives in the nation. The co-op’s 200 employees serve more than 100,000 members in a service territory that spans parts of the southeastern metro area.
DEA is the only electric co-op in the state that is rate-regulated by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
This means the rates to its members are approved by the PUC after the co-op’s board has approved them.
Though commercial accounts make up approximately 8 percent of its members, those accounts provide more than 40 percent of the co-op’s total revenue. Some of those accounts include: Thomson Reuters, a global company that provides information and data in the areas of law, taxes and accounting,
compliance, government and media; the Minnesota Zoo; UTC Aerospace, a world leader in aerospace technology; Treasure Island Casino; and DataBank.
Concern for community
DEA holds true to the “concern for community” cooperative principle by contributing more than $80,000 annually to sponsor nonprofit organizations, which benefit members within its service area.
These contributions include a five-year commitment to Fairview Ridges Hospital Foundation for the specialty care expansion, and an annual commitment to the Minnesota Zoo’s Farm Babies event.
Annually, unclaimed capital credits are donated in the form of scholarships and larger awards for specific projects in school districts within DEA’s service territory. Those donations help fund science, technology, engineering and math learning in schools, college and careers pathways programs, and programs to close achievement gaps.
DEA’s concern for community goes beyond monetary donations. DEA has an employee-led program called Dakota Cares where employees hold a variety of fundraising events and a pledge drive each year to raise donations for the United Way, Community Health Charities and the Fallen Lineman Organization. In 2018, they raised more than $31,000 for these organizations – their largest amount ever.
DEA employees also annually host and prepare a dinner for veterans and deliver meals each week through Meals on Wheels.
Working with Great River Energy
Living up to the “cooperation among cooperatives” principle, Great River Energy employees work with each of its member-owners to provide solutions to issues and collaborate on projects.
Great River Energy and DEA have built several solar farms, including a 20-kilowatt array, a 1-megawatt (MW) array and most recently a 2 MW array.
DEA was the first utility in Minnesota to have a rate for electric vehicles and now has more than 225 vehicles on electric vehicle rates. In 2017, DEA worked with Great River Energy and Schmitty & Sons to bring the first electric school bus to Minnesota. The bus began serving the Lakeville, Minn., school district in the fall of 2017. This pilot project allowed Great River Energy and DEA to track costs and environmental benefits while serving as a case study. Great River Energy was able to enroll the electric bus in the Revolt program so that 100 percent of the electricity used to “fuel” the bus comes from renewable resources.
In addition, DEA is working with Great River Energy, Steffes and Country Joe Homes on a first-of-its-kind grid interactive water heater project. This project includes 81 homes in a new housing development in Lakeville that will feature the water heaters.