Member Moment: Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative

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

Situated just south of the Twin Cities, Jordan, Minn.-based Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC) provides electricity to one of the sweetest places on earth.

Jim’s Apple Farm, proud owner of Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, is a seasonal attraction but a year-round presence in Jordan. But that’s not the only big business in the co-op’s service area. MVEC also provides electric service to commercial and industrial members including: Cambria, CH Robinson and Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. And it serves the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and By the Yard, which specializes in outdoor furniture made from recycled plastic milk jugs.

“MVEC is a progressive, innovative cooperative that takes pride in enhancing the lives of our members and the community,” said Ryan Hentges, MVEC’s chief executive officer. “To do this, the board of directors, management and staff work hard to reduce controllable costs, diversify energy portfolios, maintain strong reliability efforts, provide top-notch member service and offer value-added programs to our growing membership.”

A leader in helping member-consumers with energy costs

MVEC was the first Minnesota cooperative to introduce Pay as You Go, a prepayment program that allows member-consumers to take control of their energy usage and costs.

“It’s just like putting gasoline in their car,” Hentges said. “With this program, they can add money into their account daily, weekly or as their budget allows. They can also add funds to their account to cover their electricity needs for several months if they want.”

The statistics indicate that participating in the program helps reduce electric consumption, likely because member-consumers are more aware of their energy use. Fifty-nine percent of MVEC’s Pay as You Go member-consumers said their electric costs were noticeably lower.

When time allows, crews have helped local organizations such as the Carver County Arts Consortium and the Ney Nature Center (shown) in hanging large decorative wooden and aluminum quilt squares on barns around the service area.

Growing the membership

MVEC welcomed 3,500 new members near Montgomery, Minn., and Le Center, Minn., when Alliant Energy sold its southern Minnesota service area to 12 electric cooperatives in 2015. This historic opportunity strengthened the cooperative and all its member-consumers.

Collaborating with Great River Energy

Great River Energy and MVEC recently worked together to create a new wholesale power contract, which enabled MVEC to add approximately 3.5 megawatts of wind generation to its portfolio. The co-op also works with Great River Energy on its generation mix and the challenge of meeting state mandates for renewable energy. MVEC works with Great River Energy on the Conservation Improvement Program, Minnesota’s annual energy saving goal, as well.

Supporting local communities

MVEC member-consumers have contributed $1.8 million to local communities since 1985 through the co-op’s Operation Round Up program, which encourages members to round up their electric bill to the next dollar with all funds awarded to local organizations.

Every year, MVEC supports area youth by offering $1,000 scholarships to 15 students, facilitating an internship program for college students and sponsoring the Youth Tour, a fast-paced leadership program in Washington, D.C. The co-op also provides electrical safety demonstrations for classrooms, safety camps and fire department open houses.

MVEC’s 90-plus employees are active volunteers in the local communities. They serve as coaches, on charity boards, fire departments, church groups and MVEC-sponsored events such as safety demonstrations, osprey nests installations and Adopt-A-Highway cleanups. The cooperative is currently developing community events surrounding the co-op’s recently purchased Tesla electric vehicle.