External forces such as legislation and markets may provide opportunities, but it takes the combined knowledge, insight, and hard work of the Basin Electric team — including the board of directors, Executive and Senior Leadership Teams, and all employees — moving forward together to execute on those opportunities.
The knowledge gained through exploration into new technology or opportunities brings value to both Basin Electric employees who learn more about their industry and cooperative, and also to the membership that benefits from the enrichment of the entire team.
From research into de-carbonization to investments in training and professional development for all employees, Basin Electric’s priority on innovation, knowledge, and the people who can put ideas into action shines through.
Future Technology for De-carbonization
Basin Electric has been leading the way in CO2 capture, utilization, and storage for more than two decades. Looking to the future, we are at the forefront of research and development for new technologies that will allow for continued de-carbonization of our nation’s electric generation portfolio.
The Wyoming ITC is a research facility for testing CO2 capture technologies on the flue gas from the operating power plant. The Wyoming ITC has received more than $100 million in research and development funding including from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). It was the site of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, as well as the current site of a pilot project for novel membrane technology developed by Membrane Technology & Research (MTR) to remove the CO2.
In November 2022, Basin Electric sent a letter to the DOE supporting a proposal by MTR for DOE funds. DOE issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement for integrated CO2 capture, transport, and storage systems earlier in the year.
The funds would be used for a $5 million supplemental front-end engineering design study (FEED). This FEED study would supplement a prior study MTR finished last summer. DOE is now requiring 90% CO2 capture, whereas the previous work was done with a 70% capture target. If the proposal is successful, DOE would provide 50% of the project budget. The other 50% would include $2 million from the state of Wyoming and $500,000 provided by Basin Electric. An announcement from DOE is expected in spring 2023.
Additionally, Basin Electric is part of the CarbonSAFE project (Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise) facilitated by the University of Wyoming. This project is assessing the feasibility of large-scale CO2 storage. Wyoming CarbonSAFE was launched in 2016, and the DOE determined the project had merit and supported moving forward with Phase II in 2018 and Phase III in 2020. Phase III is a three-year effort.
Expert Knowledge Shared with the Board
The Basin Electric board of directors regularly invites external experts and consultants to their monthly board meetings as a way to hear new perspectives and information to help them make the best decisions they can on behalf of the membership.
In 2020, Basin Electric hired the Eurasia Group as a consultant regarding geopolitics, energy, climate, and resources, and representatives from the group visit with directors several times each year. In 2022, the group’s consultants focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its implications for natural gas and fertilizer supply and prices, the impact of inflation and supply chain disruptions following the COVID-19 global pandemic, and political division in the United States and its effects on energy policy.
Interest in cryptocurrency and crypto mining has grown over the past couple years, and Basin Electric members are being approached with requests to connect to co-op lines, with substantial electricity needs and potential for quickly changing technology. At the February 2022 board of directors meeting, representatives from Royal Bank of Canada spoke to directors about blockchain and Bitcoin, the most popular and established form of cryptocurrency.
Oil and natural gas markets are of interest to directors because they impact Basin Electric and Dakota Gas in a number of ways. A representative from ACES, a cooperative that does energy management for and is owned by 22 electric cooperatives across the United States, spoke at the August 2022 board meeting about how higher natural gas prices are impacting power markets, the increasing cost of renewables due to soaring demand, and more.
Investing in Our Team
Basin Electric has renewed its focus to develop resources for employee engagement, development, and performance management, all elements necessary for Basin Electric to provide reliable, affordable, and responsible electricity to its consumer-owners.
Employee engagement is more important now than ever before as competition for talent is fierce, and every workplace must determine what competitive advantage it has to attract the employees they need and to retain their existing workforce. Compounding competition for talent, Basin Electric saw a large number of retirements in 2022.
The cooperative has partnered with Gallup, a leading research and analytics company, to conduct an employee engagement survey to gauge how engaged our workforce is and to determine areas to focus improvement efforts, the culture of the cooperative, and more. Those metrics will be used to determine where Basin Electric’s employee engagement is strong and where more resources could be focused.
The Learning & Development team is working to integrate and develop employees from onboarding to preparation for future job opportunities by expanding and enhancing their knowledge and skillsets.
The BE Leaders program is a talent development opportunity allowing employees to elevate their leadership potential. The program is designed to boost personal strengths and build peer and professional networks while learning skills and acquiring tools to help them make a difference in their department, workplace, and community. Monthly gatherings include discussions concerning communication, conflict resolution, cooperative culture, change management, and more.
A remote work program was established in November 2022 to allow eligible positions greater flexibility and job satisfaction, while maintaining efficiency and productivity. The program gives employees the opportunity to work at home, on the road, or in a satellite location for part of their work week.
Strategy Influences Performance
The ability to establish employee goals that directly tie their work to Basin Electric’s strategic plan helps the cooperative ensure employees are aligned with the cooperative’s priorities.
Basin Electric’s strategic goals and objectives are funneled down to department initiatives and employee-goals; how employees supported the cooperative’s goals and objectives will then be assessed during performance reviews. All this is tied to three cooperative-wide initiatives regarding safety, reliability, and financial agility.
A new Performance Management software program supports Basin Electric employees with purpose-driven compensation and performance management, and helps employees understand management’s expectations. Human Resources administers the system and works with supervisors and managers to set goals, monitor employee performance, and conduct review and progress updates. Employees can review their progress in the system as well.