Member Moment: Stearns Electric Association

“Member Moment” highlights one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives, their end-use members, challenges, collaborations with GRE and how they uniquely demonstrate what it means to be a cooperative.

An innovative approach to promoting electric vehicles (EVs) earned this month’s featured co-op a spotlight on the national stage. Stearns Electric Association’s communications team was honored at the National Rural Electric Association’s CONNECT Conference for garnering the most social media followers on a 1,200-mile EV road trip. The cooperative sent Whitney Ditlevson and Amanda Groethe to Salt Lake City in a Tesla last May and they wrote about it all on the Roadtrip; Recharged blog.

Stearns Electric Association considers itself uniquely positioned for an increase in EVs on its system. Forty-eight percent of its members are residential and the co-op provides electric service to New Flyer, a transit bus and motor coach manufacturer that is also producing EVs. The co-op also provides electric service to other prominent local businesses including Anderson Trucking, Redhead Creamery, Legacy Building Solutions and Bayer Built Woodworks.

In addition to the variety of commercial accounts served, Stearns Electric Association also provides electricity to a significant portion of Minnesota’s agriculture producers. In fact, if you looked at its 50 largest electricity users, about half of them are farms. In addition, the co-op’s service territory covers nearly 80 percent of the state’s dairy farms as well as the leading poultry, livestock and total agricultural producing counties in Minnesota.

Stearns Electric Association is uniquely positioned for an increase in EVs as 48 percent of the co-op’s members are residential. They also provide electric service to New Flyer, a transit bus and motor coach manufacturer which is also producing EVs. The co-op provides electric service to other prominent local businesses including Anderson Trucking, Redhead Creamery, Legacy Building Solutions and Bayer Built Woodworks.

In addition to the variety of commercial accounts served, Stearns Electric Association also provides electricity to a significant portion of Minnesota’s agriculture producers. In fact, if you looked at its 50 largest users, about half of them are farms. In addition, the co-op’s service territory covers nearly 80 percent of the state’s dairy farms as well as the leading poultry, livestock and total agricultural producing counties in Minnesota.

Leveraging Great River Energy

Great River Energy has invested in Stearns Electric Association’s service territory through the St. Stephen Substation upgrade, Minncan Substation upgrade, Five Points Substation and tap line and SCADA upgrade.

Stearns Electric Association takes advantage of the Great River Energy-sponsored Play Ball! Minnesota Youth Clinics in which Twins coaches provide free baseball and softball workshops on at a community ballpark.

The co-op also reaches nearly 2,000 fourth graders in 38 schools every winter through its energy education program.

The co-op reaches nearly 2,000 fourth graders in 38 schools every winter through its energy education program.

In the future, the cooperative hopes to work more with Great River Energy on electrification efforts, EVs and demand response.

Concern for community

The heart of the community is supported by Stearns Electric Association as well. The co-op donates nearly $150,000 annually through Operation Round Up, a program that encourages members to round up their bill to the nearest dollar. Those tax-deductible funds are then donated to local charities. Stearns Electric Association’s Operation Round Up has donated more than $2.3 million since the program’s inception.

Annually, the co-op hosts a member appreciation pancake breakfast and school supply give away. The co-op also reaches nearly 2,000 fourth graders in 38 schools every winter through its energy education program.

And quarterly, employees engage in a service project with a local charitable organization through their Co-op Cares program.