Member Moment: South Central 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.

This month’s featured member-owner cooperative served an entirely rural area with no towns, stores or even a gas station until 2015. That year, South Central Electric Association (SCE) gained nine small communities when it joined 11 other distribution cooperatives to purchase additional Minnesota service territory.

Through this collaboration, these cooperatives demonstrated the sixth cooperative principle, cooperation among cooperatives, showing that co-ops can do more together than one can do alone. When they closed on the deal, 43,000 customers became members and the cooperatives hired 70 new employees.

Economic activity

SCE, headquartered in St. James, Minnesota, is mainly agricultural with hog facilities and corn and soybeans crops, so it’s no surprise its two largest electric loads come from two ethanol production facilities.

This co-op also boasts the Whole Grain Milling’s Corn Tortilla plant as a member. The chips produced there were chosen as one of the Star Tribune’s Top 50 Tastes of Minnesota.

One of South Central Electric Association’s solar arrays is located near an ethanol plant it serves. The cooperative serves an area that is almost entirely rural.

SCE supports its local businesses through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Through the USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant (REDG) program, SCE has provided $1,740,000 in zero interest loans to two local businesses. SCE is also a member of the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund, which provides business and community project financing and assists projects that promote growth, jobs, business and wealth creation in rural areas.

SCE spurs economic activity as well when it returns capital credits to its members, returning $13.3 million in credits.

Working with Great River Energy

Great River Energy routinely works with SCE crews to ensure its system is outfitted with the necessary equipment for a reliable power supply. In 2021, Great River Energy will again support SCE crews with high-side connections, communications and metering equipment on SCE’s new Jeffers Substation.

Concern for community

SCE Operation Round Up, a program that lets members who opt-in round their bill to the nearest dollar, in 2015. Since then, the SCE Trust Board has provided over $55,000 in grants to local organizations. SCE has also supported its local fire departments, providing more than $300,000 in zero interest financing for the departments to purchase fire trucks through the USDA’s REDG program.