CEO Talk

Todd Telesz

Electric co-ops save lives

by todd telesz

I recently had a brief conversation with Jena Gullo, executive director of the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way in Bismarck, as we hosted their board meeting at Basin Electric Headquarters.

She thanked Basin Electric and our members for the donation we gave in December to enable their emergency shelter to be open 24 hours a day. We were facing the life-threatening winter weather the Upper Great Plains is known so well for, with 20 degrees below zero temperatures and deadly wind chills. Jena said something that stuck with me: “Your gift is literally saving lives.”

The $75,000 Basin Electric donated is saving lives and helping our less fortunate neighbors feel more secure in a warm, dry shelter, and supporting these programs is one way we can live up to the cooperative principle of Concern for Community. Every employee and member can be proud of the work we do in our communities from a charitable standpoint. Since its inception in 2001, our Charitable Giving Program has donated over $20 million across our nine-state service area.

But as I think about that conversation, my mind shifts to the criticality of the reliable electricity we provide every day and how the very core of our business saves lives all year round.

At the same time we were facing those bitterly cold temperatures, our regional transmission operators, Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), declared energy emergency alerts. This time, the emergency alerts did not elevate to the highest levels of emergency as they did in 2021 during Winter Storm Uri leading to power disruptions; however, the alerts did demonstrate the vital nature our dispatchable generation plays in keeping the electricity on for our consumer-owners and others across SPP and MISO. The Basin Electric plant operators and marketing teams understood we needed to do everything we could to keep our generating resources online for the duration of the alert time period.

Our membership depends on and expects to receive reliable, affordable, and responsible electricity from Basin Electric, and in the winter months electricity that meets those criteria saves lives. Our members serve about 80% of the persistent poverty counties within the nine states of our service area, and our focus on affordable rates is with the intent of not exacerbating the economic burdens of lower- income consumers.

In addition to persistent poverty, we serve an area that would not have access to affordable, reliable, and responsible electricity without our generation and transmission facilities. Rural electric cooperatives, from the very beginning of their existence, serve areas of low population density that investor-owned utilities did not deem profitable enough to serve. The people who needed the electricity built the very electric cooperatives that drive quality of life in rural America and bring light, heat, and more to homes, businesses, and farms today.

We know our all-of-the-above energy portfolio is critical to keeping our electricity reliable, affordable, and responsible. We depend on our dispatchable generation such as coal and natural gas-based electricity for reliability while we have non-dispatchable generation such as wind and soon solar to utilize when available.

This issue of Basin Today is focused on reliability. You will find a story about how we protect our members from volatility and how the market purchases and commodity hedges we execute, along with our all-of-the-above energy portfolio and combined with our financial strength and agility, work together to mitigate the power market’s ups and downs for our membership. You will meet members of our Civil Engineering team who are working on the major transmission buildout we are undertaking to keep the transmission grid reliable, and there is an update on the largest single-site generation project in our system since the 1980s. In addition, our Transmission System Maintenance team is working through a several-years- long effort to address our aging infrastructure and ensure the transmission we have counted on for years will continue bringing electricity reliably to our members for years to come. 

Basin Electric delivers on critical needs in our communities – it is the very mission of a cooperative to do so. From the reliable, affordable, and responsible electricity we provide to the community services we support through our Charitable Giving Program, this cooperative’s focus is on the well-being of the people we serve. And we thank all of you, from our membership to our employees, for supporting this engine that drives quality of life and economic opportunity for consumer-owners and industries across rural America.