More renewables, competitive rates

Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau announces that the cooperative will pursue a goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau announces that the cooperative will pursue a goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Annual meeting outlines plans for increasingly clean energy at stable rates.

Great River Energy Board Chair Bob Bruckbauer opened the cooperative’s June 6 annual meeting asserting the role of the democratically elected board of directors in keeping Great River Energy on the proper path for its member-owner cooperatives.

“Our wholesale rates remain competitive and stable. Our 10-year rate forecast projects modest increases, below the projected rate of inflation overall,” Bruckbauer said. “And we expect to achieve our goal of having 20 percent equity before the year 2020.”

President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau detailed how Great River Energy improved service to members while fortifying its finances and stabilizing rates. Great River Energy achieved Minnesota’s renewable energy standard of 25 percent renewables in 2017, eight years ahead of the state requirements. At the same time, Great River Energy recorded near record margins and returned $6 million to its membership.

“Wind energy is our lowest-cost new generation resource, and our membership expects more renewables,” Saggau said. “We are proud to announce that Great River Energy has set a corporate goal to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.”

According to Saggau, the 2020 completion of the 300-megawatt Emmons-Logan Wind Farm will bring the cooperative to 30 percent renewables. Cost effective additions in the future are expected to keep the cooperative on track for 50 percent renewables by 2030.

Saggau also announced that Great River Energy’s average wholesale electric rate is projected to remain flat in 2019.

Vice President and Chief Power Supply Officer Jon Brekke described how Great River Energy’s generation portfolio has evolved over time.

“We used to receive power from five coal-based resources. Now, we have two – and they are both fueled by DryFineTM lignite coal, which has lower emissions due to a patented refining process,” Brekke said. Brekke voiced confidence in Great River Energy’s plans to add renewables while relying on a diverse and flexible portfolio that also includes natural gas plants and hydropower.

Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Michelle Strobel said Great River Energy will begin to return patronage capital to its membership after the cooperative reaches 20 percent equity, perhaps as soon as 2019. Strobel also revealed a wholesale rate projection showing that Great River Energy’s rates are expected to increase a modest 0.88 percent per year over the next decade.

During the board of directors’ reorganization meeting following the annual meeting, Robert Bruckbauer (Lake Country Power, Grand Rapids) was re-elected board chair; Dale Anderson (Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, Spicer) was elected board vice chair; Audrey Hjelle (Runestone Electric Association, Alexandria) was elected secretary, and Lee York (Nobles Cooperative Electric, Worthington) was re-elected treasurer.

In addition to the officers, the following directors were elected to Great River Energy’s 24-member board:
• Mike Littfin, Arrowhead Cooperative, Inc., Lutsen
• Gary Stenzel, BENCO Electric Cooperative, Mankato
• Reuben Kokesch, Brown County Rural Electrical Association, Sleepy Eye
• Fran Bator, Connexus Energy, Ramsey
• Don Holl, Connexus Energy, Ramsey
• Peggy Kuettel, Cooperative Light & Power, Two Harbors
• Margaret Schreiner, Dakota Electric Association, Farmington
• Clay Van De Bogart, Dakota Electric Association, Farmington
• Joe Morley, East Central Energy, Braham
• Don Swanson, East Central Energy, Braham
• David Hernke, Goodhue County Cooperative Electric Association, Zumbrota
• Tim Kivi, Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Electrical Association, Park Rapids
• Craig Olson, Lake Country Power, Grand Rapids
• Ken Hendrickx, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Pelican Rapids
• Randy Hlavka, McLeod Cooperative Power Association, Glencoe
• Harold Harms, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, Aitkin
• Bruce Leino, North Itasca Electric Cooperative, Inc., Bigfork
• Mike Blenkush, Stearns Electric Association, Melrose
• Gary Wilson, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, Owatonna
• Michael Thorson, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, Wadena