Basin Electric, members discuss plan to meet growth at 2019 annual meeting
Basin Electric’s 2019 Annual Meeting of the Membership brought in close to 900 member cooperative employees, directors, public officials, and utility representatives, and featured several updates on complex issues and developments.
This year’s theme, Powering Together, was chosen to represent the diversity and unity of its members, which makes the cooperative stronger. Basin Electric’s focus is providing low- cost energy for its member-owners. The presentations shared how Basin Electric is evolving to meet members’ energy needs in the ever-changing energy industry.
Basin Electric Board President Wayne Peltier, representing District 9 and Minnesota Valley Cooperative Light and Power, Montevideo, Minn., talked about the strong culture of the cooperative family. “When you’re a member of a co-op, you have a voice,” he said. “Each member is either represented by their elected board member, or by their vote. Democratic member control is a cooperative principle, and one that we take very seriously.”
Basin Electric General Manager and CEO Paul Sukut spoke in depth about the recent rate decrease and how it has positively affected Basin Electric’s members. “Our distribution members have told us they are under tremendous rate pressure. We want to help our members with the rate pressure they’re feeling because that’s important to us and that’s our job. That’s why we’ve decided to decrease rates by one mill starting in 2020. This results in a $30 million decrease in cost to our members,” Sukut said. In addition, Sukut said that earlier this week, the board approved a $31.7 million patronage.
Sukut also discussed opportunities Basin Electric has to partner with companies in the Bakken, or western North Dakota and eastern Montana. “This spring, Barr Engineering and the State of North Dakota did a study of the Bakken forecast. The study confirmed our forecasted load growth, so we’re expecting 400 megawatts (MW) of growth in western North Dakota with significantly more to come. With load growth comes a need for resources and we have a load growth to fulfill for our membership,” he said.
- Basin Electric staff provided reports and served on panels regarding operations, marketing, financials, and government relations. They addressed how Basin Electric will respond to a load growth increase, how a reduction in workforce fostered greater collaboration, continued efforts to build and maintain infrastructure for a continually growing membership, financial successes in a challenging year, energy diversification, and regulatory/legislative updates. The panel discussions included Q&A sessions with the members.
- The keynote speaker was Robert “RJ” Johnston, executive advisor and managing director of Global Energy and Natural Resources for the Eurasia Group. He works closely with corporate and institutional investor clients in the oil and gas, mining, electric power, and clean tech sectors. Johnston’s message focused on implications for U.S. trade and energy. He shared some uncertainties about the stability of the oil and gas industry. “Do we consider the U.S. oil and gas sector politically stable? With President Trump mostly pro-oil and gas and Elizabeth Warren mostly anti [oil and gas], my concern is a stalemate. Investors struggle with funding projects because they are looking for strong, clear direction one way,” Johnston said. “There’s a lot of action in the energy sector in the states and in the courts. It’s getting harder to get an idea of where the U.S. is headed.”
- The membership also heard from Gov. Doug Burgum (R-North Dakota) “One of the things that’s driving this energy revolution is the technology and the private sector companies that are investing in the Bakken here in North Dakota,” Burgum said. “We know there’s demand load across the entire Basin Electric portfolio. That’s driven by population increases or enhanced value-added agricultural efforts that are going on. In the Bakken, the recent report that came out from our transmission authority said that there’s an expectation that we’re going to need 1,000 MW in North Dakota over the next 10 years.”
- Burgum also talked about innovation in North Dakota’s energy industry. “In North Dakota we have invested over $96 million in energy research and development (R & D) where we’re partnering with state R & D dollars to partner with a private sector. This includes a number of exciting projects, whether it’s enhanced oil recovery, underground storage of produced natural gas, different approaches for remediation and carbon capture, utilization, and storage,” Burgum said. “I believe that with innovation and investment in R & D, we can be in a position where carbon can be a value-added input. And we can do that through research and investing in innovation.”
- The event featured business and cooperative booths including three electric vehicles: Lignite Energy Council’s Tesla, Basin Electric’s Chevy Bolt, and Capital Electric’s Prowler ATV. The vehicles were purchased to help the co-ops better understand electric vehicle technology.
More information, including reports, video, and social media feeds can be found at basinelectric.com or through #Basin2019.