Member Moment: Federated Rural Electric Association

“Member Moment” highlights one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives and how it uniquely demonstrates what it means to be a cooperative.

Federated Rural Electric Association serves the heavily agricultural Jackson and Martin counties with an electric system that employs advanced technology and innovative staff. The Jackson, Minnesota-based co-op serves some of the top pork producers in Minnesota, as well as three ethanol plants and a soybean refinery plant. The co-op is also innovative and environmentally conscious, staking claim as one of the first electric co-ops to install a wind turbine in its service territory — a 2.1 megawatt turbine in Welcome, Minnesota.

“We are proud of our rural heritage and have the utmost respect for our agricultural base of members,” said Scott Reimer, general manager. “We see firsthand when the ag economy suffers through tough times, and it keeps us grounded as we evaluate our business model. We need to keep it competitive so our members can thrive.”

Federated also looks for areas to grow its business, such as when it joined other electric cooperatives to add 1,700 members (previously Alliant customers) to its system in 2015.

Federated has a diverse power supply portfolio, which includes business relationships with Great River Energy and other energy providers. As a cooperative, Federated has a history of giving back to its local community, pursuing new businesses for its members and working with Great River Energy.

Employees of Federated Rural Electric Association are pictured.

Giving back

Federated is deeply invested in its local community. Through Operation Round Up, members are encouraged to round up their monthly bill to the next dollar. Those extra funds are then pooled to provide financial assistance to local nonprofit organizations. Federated has returned more than $697,000 to local organizations since Operation Round Up started in 1994. In addition, the co-op has assisted the local area with more than $4 million in economic development since 1990. These efforts retained 448 jobs and created 1,086 new positions.

Federated employees volunteer with Adopt-A-Highway, cleaning the 2-mile stretch past the co-op’s office. They also participate in GreenTouch to clean up Kilen Woods State Park. Federated employees serve on the Jackson Economic Development Committee, Jackson City Council and Jackson Utilities Board, and are also involved in Kiwanis, 4-H clubs and fire station crews.

Cooperative-owned subsidiaries

Federated owns and manages subsidiary companies including television channels, security and tree removal services. Federated is one of four co-ops that own CTV, a service that rebroadcasts about 40 Twin Cities TV channels to southwestern Minnesota. It is also one of 10 cooperative that manage Carrs Tree Service, which performs line clearance duties and vegetation management. Federated is also one of the original owners of Heartland Security, a home and business security provider now owned by 13 electric cooperatives.

Working with Great River Energy

Federated and Great River Energy line technicians worked closely earlier this year during Winter Storm Wesley.

“Both the Great River Energy and the Federated systems were devastated,” Reimer said. “With a team approach and excellent communications, we were able to mitigate the effects to members as much as humanly possible. Great River Energy mobilized contractors as well as their employees, to get the many transmission lines back up and operating in some very adverse conditions.”

Great River Energy’s line technicians also worked with Federated’s crews in setting larger poles, which were used to enhance Federated’s advanced metering infrastructure communications capabilities.

Great River Energy has assisted Federated at securing economic development funding, most recently with a $421,000 USDA Revolving Loan. Great River Energy also worked with Federated to install a new fiber optic line to Federated’s Welcome office.

Great River Energy and Federated have teamed up to improve electric reliability in the region, with Federated investing in substation upgrades and Great River Energy meeting those upgrades with additions to the transmission system. In the coming years, Federated will work with Great River Energy to improve updates to its substations through switching and system coordination.