“Member Moment” highlights one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives and how it uniquely demonstrates what it means to be a cooperative.
With more than 90 percent of its members owning homes and farmsteads, Goodhue County Cooperative Electric Association (GCCEA) understands the importance of serving the people in its communities.
“We value all of our members – big and small,” said Kelly Hovel, general manager of GCCEA. “We have a number of family farms that rely on us each and every day for their livelihood, and we work with them using special grants and rebates to save energy and money.”
Eleven of the 19 employees that serve GCCEA are also members of the cooperative.
“We have friends and family all along the lines we serve,” Hovel said. “It means our employees are personally invested in the community and have been all their lives. And it adds to the sense of pride and the accountability we have in the job we do providing safe, reliable and affordable energy to the people who surround our daily lives.”
Educating, supporting local communities
Co-ops are part of the communities they serve. Two of the seven principles that guide all co-ops are “concern for community” and “providing education, training and information to its members.” GCCEA demonstrates both principles through its giving and training programs.
GCCEA gives back to its local communities through Operation Round-Up, which encourages members to round up their electric bill to the next dollar with all funds awarded to local organizations. GCCEA members have given back nearly $500,000 during the co-op’s 22 years of participation. GCCEA also makes donations to the county’s 4-H organization, local FFA programs, the county fair, National Night Out and local economic development organizations.
In addition to providing financial resources, co-ops see the importance of education—especially around electric safety. GCCEA provides electrical safety demonstrations at local schools and fire departments.
“Promoting safety is a priority for GCCEA both internally and within the communities we serve,” Hovel said.
GCCEA employees continue to work to expand this program to more fire districts, schools and local emergency medical services.
Collaborating with Great River Energy
GCCEA worked with Great River Energy engineers and field service employees recently to upgrade its original substation, Hader Substation, built in 1938. The upgraded substation will help GCCEA maintain the reliability its members have come to expect. The co-op also worked with GRE to complete its four-year work plan and a sectionalizing study, which helped determine how resilient the GCCEA grid is by analyzing how many redundant sources of electricity the grid can rely on.
GCCEA’s partnership with Great River Energy also includes direct benefits to GCCEA members. Through Great River Energy, GCCEA can offer agricultural energy audits at a reduced cost, which helps the ag industry gain operational efficiencies and minimize energy costs.
In the future, GCCEA is looking to upgrade another substation to address potential load growth just south of the Cannon Falls area. The co-op is working with Great River Energy to finalize its system-wide metering conversion as well. The next step involves changing out its load control system and integrating the new system with Great River Energy.
“This is something Great River Energy has already laid the groundwork for,” Hovel said. “We expect that with Great River Energy’s experience and expertise, this process should go flawlessly.”