Background

Great River Energy has spent the last two decades adapting its power supply portfolio, lowering costs and reducing its dependence on coal, while improving overall flexibility. In May 2020, Great River Energy announced plans to further transform its power supply portfolio and significantly reduce member-owner wholesale power costs by phasing out remaining coal resources, adding significant renewable energy and exploring critical grid-scale battery technology.

Great River Energy’s position

Great River Energy opposes a carbon-free mandate and any new legislation that would dictate which generating resources electric utilities must use. Cooperatives such as Great River Energy and its member-owners are best suited to make long-term power supply decisions that maintain reliability and affordability while meeting the environmental expectations of their Minnesota member-consumers. Continued flexibility is needed for utilities to achieve the state’s existing greenhouse gas reduction goal. Currently, the electric utility sector is the only sector in Minnesota that is on track to achieve the state’s economy-wide CO2 reduction goals. Great River Energy’s recent strategic power supply changes – and the associated emission reductions – would not have been possible without the flexibility and accountability of the cooperative business model.

Great River Energy’s fleet of fast-starting natural gas peaking plants provides year-round reliability services for both members’ load needs and the regional grid while enabling significant growth of energy supply from renewable sources. These peaking plants also help protect consumers from high market prices while emitting relatively small amounts of CO2. Any CO2 reduction policy should exempt peaking plants and highly efficient sources of generation that can provide round-the-clock electricity with lower CO2 emissions. It is also important that utilities can evaluate and credit CO2 impacts across energy sources as beneficial electrification enables carbon reductions in other sectors like transportation.

Any state energy policy needs to consider the complexities of regional energy markets and make allowances for market purchases. Participation in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) ensures Great River Energy has access to reliable, affordable energy as well as new renewable resources across the state and region. Utilities interact with the MISO market every minute of the day to purchase energy for their load requirements and sell energy they generate. The MISO market does not differentiate generation resources based on CO2 emissions nor does it allow for the purchase of carbon-free energy.

Mandating the complete elimination of CO2 emissions from the electric utility sector before the technological advances needed to do so are available could compromise two of electricity’s most important attributes: reliability and affordability. As CO2 emissions decline, additional reductions become more difficult and expensive. Eliminating the final 10% of CO2 emissions with existing or even future technology could hinder reliability and be extremely cost prohibitive.

About Great River Energy

Great River Energy is a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative that provides electricity to 28 member-owner distribution cooperatives. Together, these systems provide power to approximately two-thirds of Minnesota geographically and parts of Wisconsin, serving 700,000 families, farms and businesses. With $3.9 billion in assets, Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota and one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the nation. Learn more at greatriverenergy.com.


November 20, 2020

Download a PDF of Great River Energy’s Carbon dioxide reduction measures position statement