The Making, Moving, and Marketing panel was moderated by Director of Strategic Planning and Communications Andy Buntrock and included Dakota Gas Vice President and Great Plains Synfuels Plant Manager Dale Johnson, Senior Vice President of Transmission, Engineering, and Construction Tom Christensen, Senior Vice President of Operations Troy Tweeten, and Director of Asset Management and Commodity Strategy Valerie Weigel.
The panel began with the discussion of what services are included in Basin Electric’s rates. Unlike some of the cooperative’s competitors, whose rates only include energy, Basin Electric’s rates include other components such as capacity, ownership, equity, member governance, and accountability, which means our members own us and that gives them financial strength. If there’s any profit, it is brought back to the members who also share the co-op’s risk and cost.
Weigel spoke about how Basin Electric’s generation portfolio includes a wide variety of resources, such as coal, natural gas, oil, diesel, hydropower, wind, recovered waste heat, and soon solar. “Having this diversity ensures reliability to our members through the geographic dispersion that we have across all the states in our service territory, unlike a competitor who may only have a single source of generation just in a single area,” she said.
Earlier this year, Basin Electric conducted a comprehensive survey to determine the most important issues to the members. The top two were affordable rates and reliable power. Basin Electric is taking several steps to ensure both are prioritized and top of mind when decisions are made.
The winter weather event that stretched throughout the central United States in February was discussed at length during the panel. Subzero temperatures that extended well into Texas impacted load levels, generation, and the availability of fuel supply. Hourly market prices in the Southwest Power Pool market were over $4,100 per megawatt hour and the largest controlled load shed event in U.S. history occurred during this event.
Operations staff worked hard during the February event to keep the generation units up and running during the event and members of the transmission system maintenance staff worked throughout the night in the extremely cold temperatures to fix issues to ensure members could get the power they needed.
Johnson said Dakota Gas also helped with the event by pushing gas to the Northern Border Pipeline, which allowed Basin Electric to purchase that gas and move it to Basin Electric’s gas-powered generating resources so they had fuel to run.
“Gas was pretty difficult to come by during parts of the weather event. Dakota Gas was able to capture some higher revenue from those high natural gas prices while Basin Electric was having to pay for some natural gas at higher prices. The two entities were able to offset some of that financial exposure that each entity was picking up,” Weigel added. “It’s hard to pick up gas in a spot market let alone when everybody is trying to pick up gas on a Saturday morning. Our gas traders worked really hard not only to find the amount of gas that we needed, but also to make sure that we were able to capture a fair price.”
Members of the panel also discussed Basin Electric’s load growth over the past decade, and how that growth has been largely served by renewable resources and diversifying the cooperative’s generation portfolio. In 2000, Basin Electric had just a few different fuel types, but today it has multiple fuel types that allows stability in the marketplace and protection from the volatility of the market.
The panel ended with member questions and answers from the panelists.