Planning for today and into the future
By Marvin Denzer
As the leaves change color and students head back to school, it is a time for everyone to get back to a regular routine, which often includes reflection on the past and looking ahead to the future. Your cooperative is no different. This is the time of year we look at and review our annual plans, goals, and budget.
Strategic planning provides a multi-year strategy that helps us plan for an evolving energy industry, as well as meet unique needs of our service area. This year, our Executive Team (vice presidents of energy services, engineering, finance, human resources, member services, and operations along with myself), will be working closely with our Board of Directors to develop plans that focus on our mission to create exceptional member experiences, while safely providing reliable energy at cost and to our vision of being a trusted energy partner loyal to the community – now and for future generations. Looking at today’s needs is just as important as looking at future needs. There are four strategic areas we focus on:
- Financial Strength
We are committed to having a balanced and diversified energy portfolio that benefits our cooperative as a whole right down to the individual members, like you. This means having a mix of low-cost, reliable energy sources. Wholesale power continues to be our biggest cost, accounting for 70 percent of our members’ bills. We look for opportunities to reduce this cost yet keep reliability high by investing in new technologies and infrastructure. Add to this the potential impacts of legislation with government regulations, such as the Carbon Free by 2040 mandate, Energy Conservation and Optimization Act (ECO), and Inflation Reduction Action (IRA) programs. This is quite an opportunity to keep rates stable and competitive.
Plain and simple we want you, our member-owners to have reliable power 100% of the time. We are constantly investing in our infrastructure to ensure that our system is both reliable and resilient. Operational excellence is our focus. This includes power quality (reducing outages and blinking lights), proactive system-wide maintenance programs, and sound engineering design and operational technology systems.
- Member Experience & Community
Not to get lost in all the technical and monetary aspects of strategic planning, engaging with you, our members, is at the heart of all we do. We maximize the value of your cooperative membership with exceptional service, member engagement, and community partnerships. Offering rebates, innovative money-saving programs and services, understanding your communication preferences, monitoring data security efforts, providing opportunities to youth of all ages, and supporting local organizations are all ways we try to make life better in the MVEC service area. It’s another way of powering our communities.
- Cooperative Culture
Having a shared culture of safety is a top priority. Safety of our Team and protecting of the public are vital. MVEC’s Team of employees is critical to our cooperative success. Investing in an engaged and empowered workforce means keeping the team well-informed and positioned to meet the needs of MVEC and the communities we serve today and into the future. We are committed to business continuity to ensure our cooperative has a strong leadership team in place for the future. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an estimated 25 percent of U.S. utility workers will retire in the next five years. This represents about 200,000 workers, and, at MVEC, around 25 of the nearly 100 Team members.
Lastly, but very importantly, we look at the strategic initiatives and determine appropriate budgets. Our budgeting process is well thought out and takes our members’ bottom line into account. We look for ways to reduce costs while improving efficiency. At the same time, we are committed to investing in the co-op’s future and its service to you – our member-owners.
As you can see, we have great opportunities for us in the coming months. I am confident that by working together with a spirit of servant leadership, we can achieve our goals and continue to provide our members with the reliable and affordable energy you deserve. Thank you, our member-owners, for your continued support.
Until next month,
Marvin Denzer, MVEC CEO
Previous Update messages:
If you look around your home, you likely have more devices and equipment that require electricity than ever before. Our connected lives are dependent on more electricity than households in the past – even just five years ago. In the summer, demand for electricity also increases when we cool our homes during hot summer days.
As you would expect, based on your family’s habits, electricity use fluctuates throughout the day based on what you are doing. MVEC provides enough electricity to meet the energy needs of all members during times of highest energy use or “peak hours.” These peak times are typically in the morning as people start their day and in the evening as people return to their homes.
During peak periods when the cost to produce and purchase power is higher, we encourage you to take simple steps to save energy, such as turning your thermostat up in the summer or down in the winter a few degrees, turning off unnecessary lights and not using large appliances such as dishwashers, dryers, and washing machines during peak times – usually the 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. time frame.
You can also save energy by plugging electronics and equipment such as computers, printers, and TVs into a power strip, and then turn it off at the switch during peak hours. If you have a programmable thermostat, adjust the settings to match your family’s comings and goings and sleep times. Shifting your energy usage to off-peak times gives you greater control over your electric bill.
Here are some tools we offer to help you save:
- MVEC Energy Wise saving programs provide rate savings, rebates, or discounts for heating, cooling, electric water heating, and electric vehicle charging. See how you can save at mvec.net/energy-wise-programs/
- The free SmartHub account management tool where you can monitor your real-time energy use, pay a bill, and make service requests. Learn more about SmartHub at www.mvec.net/smarthub/
- My EnergyXpert is a free self-audit tool that takes you through a series of questions about your home and energy lifestyle and gives a personalized recommendation of potential saving solutions. Take your home audit at mvec.net/my-energy-xpert-tool/
- Videos on understanding your bill, load management programs, and more can be found at mvec.net/stay-informed/video-library/
- More savings tips for all seasons and reasons can be found at mvec.net/energy-tips/
When we all work together to reduce energy use during periods of high electricity demand, we can relieve pressure on the electric grid and save money along the way. Load management and member efforts help reduce power supply costs. This is particularly noticeable as energy costs have risen across the country. Collectively, everyone conserving energy and making small changes can truly make a positive impact.
Summer is here, and I hope, despite the mosquitoes, you are enjoying the warm weather and outdoor activities. For me, a favorite activity is running. I’ve run more than just a few 5Ks, marathons, and Ironman competitions in the past 40-some years.
Running a race has a significant impact on my personal energy demand. Being prepared for the race and anything that may happen is just as important as the race itself. Using my energy efficiently requires training and pacing myself.
Just like there is demand for personal energy when running, the cooperative has to focus on its energy demand and the impacts on the system. Last summer, we kept an eye out for the possibility of rolling blackouts. Rolling blackouts are scheduled, but temporary power outage events are rotated among utilities within a power region, usually on heavy power demand days. Fortunately, in our area, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) did not need to do this in 2022.
This year, we are contending with similar energy capacity concerns. We do not anticipate blackouts will affect MVEC this summer; however, we must be aware of the possibility. Unfortunately, while blackouts are unlikely, they are possible.
As traditional electricity generation plants are retired and replacements such as solar and wind are not always available 24/7, reliability comes into consideration. Without adequate transmission, reliability can be at risk, which increases the threat of service disruptions. As a last resort, rolling blackouts help restore balance to the supply and demand of electricity. A blackout can last up to an hour, then the power is restored, and another area is turned off – hence, the rolling. It’s like pacing the power grid.
Still, the likelihood of all these negative events happening together (lost generation, higher demand, plants going offline, wind not blowing) is low. It is MISO’s job to plan for the region’s overall capacity needs. At MVEC, we’re glad MISO is looking out for our region’s power supply.
Thank you for being a member of MVEC. In addition to the information we have at www.mvec.net/energy-costs/, we promise to keep you informed by email if summer energy conditions evolve.
By Marvin Denzer
In a world where lead times have grown longer and prices for everything have gone up, like you, your cooperative looks for ways to be creative in saving money and using resources wisely.
With the purchase and delivery of new digger trucks taking nearly two years, I challenged our resourceful mechanics’ team to a new project this winter: repairing the floor and bed on an otherwise healthy digger derrick. Truck No. 275 is a 2014 Freightliner M2 Digger. It’s low on miles, the engine runs well, and mechanically, it works great.
But as our lead mechanic Matt Dolejs put it, Minnesota winters got the best of 275. Rust was wearing through the steel bed, which needed to be replaced and repurposed with a new one and welded back together.
So, Matt, along with associate mechanic Nate, got to work on this as a side project over the winter. With some help from Mid-County in Jordan – who helped fabricate the replacement steel frame – the pair disassembled the old bed, prepped the truck, and welded on the new flooring. After several months of work and a fresh coat of paint, I’m happy to report it was a success on all fronts.
The decision to restore the truck was a no-brainer for the co-op. For one, lead times on new digger trucks currently stand at approximately 18 months – and that’s if we can get a reserved slot. Additionally, it would cost MVEC close to $350,000 to purchase a new one.
Overall, Truck 275 repairs came in around $15,000 to restore and close to two months to finish as a side project for Matt and Nate, who were still committed to their daily tasks in the mechanics’ shop. I’m proud of the hard work and dedication that our team put into this project.
In the end, not only did this save the co-op a substantial amount of money, but it also gave a new lease on life for the truck in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way. By choosing to restore instead of replace, we were able to reduce our carbon footprint and prevent unnecessary waste. 275 is currently in use by our crews in the field. And even if it’s eventually replaced by a newer digger, the truck gives the co-op a reliable spare when others are down or in warranty work.
After seeing the project through, I would like to extend a big thank you to Nate and Matt. It’s through your hard work and dedication that we were able to achieve this goal, and I’m excited to see what other sustainable initiatives we can take on as a co-op in the future.
At MVEC, we know the importance of practicing safety year-round. From our co-op crews to you, the member-owners we serve, we recognize that everyone has a part to play in prioritizing safety. CEO Marvin Denzer and Director of Safety Chad Briese discuss the importance of safety at our cooperative.
Chad: Marvin, I’ve known you for years now, and I want to congratulate you on becoming our new CEO. Right off the bat, I’m going to ask: What is your overall safety philosophy for MVEC?
Marvin: To me, safety is more than a catchphrase. As CEO, it’s my responsibility to keep our co-op Team Members, member-owners, and the public safe. Over time, MVEC has created a culture of safety by adopting the philosophy of Safety First. Safety is included in the co-op’s mission statement: To create exceptional member experiences, while safely providing reliable energy at cost.
We want to make sure each Team Member goes home safely at the end of the workday to their loved ones. This requires ongoing focus, dedication, and vigilance. We are fortunate to have a Board of Directors that are supportive and will invest in safety at MVEC.
Marvin: One of our core cooperative values centers on safety. What is your outlook on promoting a culture of safety with all team members?
Chad: Safety impacts all areas of the cooperative and starts internally. All team members have an annual corporate goal of attending at least four training sessions that relate to work and personal safety. We also ask that everyone reports a near-miss incident that they have experienced, whether at work, home, or on the road. This promotes awareness that safety issues are always around us. We stress personal accountability and look out for fellow team members as well as community members.
Marvin: Working with electricity is an inherently dangerous job, especially for line workers. What protocols do the crews follow under your direction?
Chad: We established and follow internal and industry safety protocols. We take the time to train and keep our workers up-to-date and familiar with the equipment they use. Our line workers wear special clothing, gloves, and personal protective equipment when working. We have regular “tailgate” meetings to discuss upcoming projects and each crew’s work from a safety perspective. We monitor and track near-miss incidents to understand them, share “lessons learned” and improve in the future.
Most importantly, we encourage our crews to speak up and hold each other accountable for safety. By cultivating a culture of openness and transparency, we promote problem-solving regarding safety. We examine the information from near-misses and accident reports to notice patterns and use safety metrics to improve in those areas where we have fallen short.
Marvin: May is Electrical Safety Month. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, thousands of people in the U.S. are critically injured or electrocuted because of electrical fires and accidents in their own homes. Many of these accidents are preventable. Electricity is a necessity, and it powers our daily lives. But we know first-hand how dangerous electricity can be because we work with it 365 days a year. What advice would you give our members to stay safe, not just this summer, but all year round?
Chad: There are many facets to electrical safety, indoors and out. One of the biggest indoor tips is to remember every electrical device has a purpose and lifespan. It’s important to check items for signs of electrical hazards and wear and tear. Outdoors, be aware of your surroundings. Look up for power lines when using large equipment or ladders. Remember to call before you dig. And be sure to stress to your kids the importance of staying away from power lines, substations, and transformers – also known as the big green electrical boxes in your neighborhood. Interfering with this high-voltage equipment is deadly.
From a public safety perspective, MVEC offers free safety hotline demonstrations for school groups, fire department open houses, and other events. We partner with local first responders and contractors for safety and hazard recognition training. How to deal with electric vehicle fires has been a relatively new training topic we partnered with Great River Energy to offer. These are all ways to keep our members and the public safe.
MVEC embraces challenges, opportunities, and growth at 86th Annual Meeting
JORDAN, MN – Overcoming and embracing energy market challenges as well as opportunities in 2022 was the theme this year as Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative returned to its hometown of Jordan for its Annual Meeting on March 28.
MVEC held its 86th Annual Meeting – at Jordan High School after traveling to Arlington the previous year – where new CEO Marvin Denzer spoke of the challenges MVEC overcame to turn in a successful 2022. Through inflation and supply chain issues to government mandates and power grid balance, the co-op saw growth and is moving forward with competitive rates.
“I want to assure you, MVEC remains competitive with local utilities, including Xcel Energy and the surrounding municipals,” said Denzer, who added the co-op saw nearly 1,600 new members in 2022 to push total services over 46,000.
Looking into the future, the co-op is positioned well and will maintain a balanced approach by continuing to invest in safety and reliability, while ensuring rates stay competitive. MVEC focuses on energy transition initiatives that will balance the use of renewable and carbon-free resources in a manner that manages risk, cost, and reliability.
New to the Annual Meeting this year were video presentations. MVEC department heads gave video reports highlighting their respective areas, showing firsthand accounts of what’s going on at the cooperative.
Incumbents joined by a new board member after race in District III
Nearly 100 people, representing 70 registered member households and businesses attended the meeting, which was hosted by Board President Brent Lawrence and included one district race for the Board of Directors.
Prior to revealing election results, the board said goodbye to Fran Barten and Bill Heinlein, who retire after 11 years as representatives. Replacing Barten in District III will be Elizabeth (Liz) Krocak of Montgomery, who secured her position on the board with 984 votes. Also running for the District III spot were Julie Bifano of Montgomery and Prior Lake’s Anthony Albright, who received 463 and 479 votes, respectively. Nearly 15 percent of eligible District III members cast votes.
Heinlein announced his retirement after the board candidate filings for 2023 had closed in January.
In Districts I and II, respectively, Lawrence and Michelle Morrison of Belle Plaine ran unopposed and were returned to office by acclamation. Positions on the board were determined as well. Deb Erickson of Savage takes over as Board President, Le Center’s Kevin Gibbs will serve as Vice President, and Tom Wolf of Prior Lake is the new Secretary.
In the annual Financial Report, consultant Gerry Mareck highlighted the cooperative’s 2022 Balance Sheet. Mareck reported that member equity grew by $3.7 million, which sits at around 35 percent of MVEC’s total assets. This lower equity percentage means lower electricity rates for members. In addition, MVEC paid out $1.8 million in Capital Credits last year.
The annual meeting also featured scholarship presentations, funded by MVEC’s unclaimed Capital Credits. Fifteen $1,000 scholarships were awarded to area high school seniors. MVEC’s wholesale power provider, Basin Electric Power Cooperative of Bismarck, will also award a $1,000 scholarship, though the winner has not been announced yet. Scholarship winners are available on MVEC’s website, www.mvec.net.
Brandon Busch, a junior at Prior Lake High School, was announced as MVEC’s representative on the 2023 Youth Tour, a national leadership trip to Washington, D.C., sponsored by America’s rural electric cooperatives. Ava Joos of Chanhassen High School was chosen as the runner-up.
Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors made it official on February 28 by naming interim Chief Executive Officer Marvin Denzer, the cooperative’s seventh general manager/CEO since MVEC was established in 1937.
“After examining our options and after a long interview with Marvin, the Board decided we had a talented and effective leader ready to permanently assume the CEO position,” said Board President Brent Lawrence at a meeting with MVEC staff. “Marvin’s vast experience at MVEC and his dedication to our members put us in a great position moving forward.”
A native of Montgomery, MN, and a North Dakota State University graduate, Denzer began his MVEC career as an engineer. Over his 31 years at the co-op, he has served in many capacities across the organization including key account executive, marketing manager, Vice President of Energy Services, and, most recently, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Engineering and Operations. He and his family live in Waconia, MN.
Some of Denzer’s notable accreditations in the electric cooperative field are the completion of the Management Internship Program (MIP), a six-week comprehensive program providing an in-depth analysis of the functions and processes of cooperative management.
Denzer also successfully completed the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives’ Master Class for Strategy Execution, which is a cooperative-based performance management tool focusing on strategic initiatives across the cooperative including financial strength, reliability, member experience with community engagement, and internal culture development.
Most recently, Denzer has been involved with leadership development and completed a dynamic 12-month leadership certification immersion program through Think Great’s Leadership Link in 2021.
“Working for our electric cooperative for the past 31 years has given me appreciation of how great, kind-hearted MVEC Team Members and Cooperative Member-Owners can partner together to accomplish forward-thinking projects while enhancing system reliability,” said Denzer. “As a servant leader, I look forward to serving in this new role while always keeping in mind what’s best for MVEC.”
Denzer succeeds Ryan Hentges who had been MVEC’s CEO since 2016 before accepting a position with Dakota Electric Association earlier this year. “Marvin has been an integral part of MVEC for years,” said Hentges. “The cooperative is in great hands under Marvin’s leadership.”
Denzer looks forward to presenting the cooperative report at MVEC’s 86th Annual Meeting at Jordan High School 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28. The meeting gives members an overview of cooperative financials and 2022 initiatives.
Balancing costs, bills, and power reliability
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
As a not-for-profit cooperative, we understand that your monthly electric bill is impacted by the decisions we make at the cooperative, and we are focused on making wise investments with the resources entrusted to us. Since 2016, we’ve been able to make prudent investments in our cooperative and electrical grid, without needing to increase the general service rate you pay for electricity.
As you can likely imagine, everything we buy to run the cooperative, from poles and wire to transformers and vehicles, has increased in cost since 2016. With costs continuing to rise on most of our equipment, we can no longer responsibly balance the need for safe and reliable electric service without increasing your monthly electric bill.
In the announcement to the left, MVEC’s residential Basic Monthly Service Charge is increasing on March 1 from $10 to $15. This is a fixed charge paid by all members and is not based on your household usage; it covers the cost to maintain MVEC’s system — from poles and wire to equipment and administrative costs. As a not-for-profit utility, the co-op sells the electricity you use at cost. The last time the Basic Monthly Service Charge changed was in 2015.
MVEC’s Board of Directors approved the increase following an extensive cost-of-service study conducted by an outside consulting firm. This study ensured all rates are fair and equitable between member-owners. It is a total review of all costs and allocates those costs to determine revenue requirements by each member class of rates. When determining if rate changes are needed, much thought and consideration are given.
We understand there is no suitable time for an increase. After seven years of keeping member rates stable, the increase is needed to cover cooperative costs and ensure reliable power to the membership.
MVEC rates remain very competitive, as shown in the graph, with neighboring utilities who are all reviewing their costs as well.
Another component of your bill, the Wholesale Power Costs Adjustment (WPCA), will continue to vary monthly for the foreseeable future. As the price of natural gas has increased substantially in 2022, the price of the energy MVEC purchases on your behalf has increased. This is reflected in the WPCA, which is a direct pass-thru from our power providers. Our hope is as the price of natural gas declines so will the price of energy we purchase on your behalf, and the WPCA will then decline.
MVEC offers member programs and services to help reduce bills and save energy. Some are no cost, low cost, have reduced rates, allow you to pay as you go, or offer a steadier and more predictable monthly bill. Check out the bill insert this month, visit www.mvec.net or call us at 952.492.2313 to learn more.
During this holiday season, reflect on your “Why”
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
The holiday season is a time for reflection, gratitude, and goodwill. While the past year brought challenges, we all pulled together to make our co-op and communities stronger. For me personally, during the holidays, I look forward to more time spent with family and friends. We cherish carrying on old family traditions and enjoy creating new ones.
Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, the holidays are an opportunity to slow down and reflect. As we look to a New Year, one longstanding personal commitment I have is safety — for myself, my family, and the cooperative Team Members with whom I am privileged to work. At an electric cooperative, safety is imperative.
Among the many safety training sessions we hold at the cooperative, one resounding theme is that we work in a way so that everyone goes home safely at the end of the day. Sadly, one day in May, one member of the crew did not go home due to a tragic accident. As we continue to remember and honor Tanner, the work must go on. And we make sure it goes on safely.
One question that makes safety hit at home is “What is your Why?” Why do you work safe? Why do you take the time to make sure your processes, actions, and work style are as safe as possible? For our Team Members, the Why mentioned most often is loved ones.
I have challenged the MVEC Team Members to not only think about their Whys, but to go the next step and also write their own heartfelt letters to their loved ones. We never know what the next day may bring, but we can let our loved ones know how we feel about them any day of the year.
I also encourage you, our members, to think about your Whys, and why safety is important to you. Your activities and work may have its own hazards, electrical or not. During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s important to take a breath and be grateful for all we have and for those we love. Safety has many forms, and it is important to keep it always at the forefront.
We appreciate your membership and want to keep you, your home, and your business reliably powered as safely as possible. As we prepare for 2023, we look forward to the opportunity to continue to safely serve you and the greater community. On behalf of the Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative family, we hope your holidays are indeed merry, bright – and safe!
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
While virtually all aspects of today’s cost of living continue to rise, we strive to avoid routine rate adjustments. In fact, the last time MVEC electric base rates were modified was in 2016. In a world of rising costs for nearly all consumer products and commodities, MVEC continues to work hard to manage costs effectively.
MVEC is a not-for-profit utility. It is part of our mission statement: to safely provide reliable energy at cost. In order to accomplish that, staff sets annual work plans that enhance member service while making financially-responsible decisions and working efficiently to meet them.
Revenue derived from the electric rates collected from our membership funds the operation of the electric cooperative. It is the responsibility of MVEC’s Board of Directors and the co-op’s staff to examine rates routinely. This ensures rates are justifiable and reasonable for all classes of members (residential and commercial). It also allows MVEC to fulfill its lender obligations and our commitment to you, the members, to deliver safe and reliable service at cost.
If MVEC rates collect too much it is given back to the members. Bill credits have been issued to the membership in 2018, 2019, and 2020 totaling $1 million. Likewise, if our electric rates do not cover cooperative expenses, we need to adjust. MVEC rates compare favorably to local electric utilities. All are seeing upward cost pressures with natural gas availability and the cost of utility materials.
How are electric rates established? MVEC has hired a third-party rate consultant, Power Systems Engineering, to conduct a Cost-ofService Study. Existing data is used to determine what revenue is required to operate the cooperative in the future, and costs are assigned to each class of service. Electric rates are then designed, from those cost allocations, to collect revenue fairly from each rate schedule in meeting obligations and the funding for future goals as identified by the Board of Directors.
As MVEC reviews costs, power supply is the largest expense, which covers costs to purchase the power that is generated and transmitted to MVEC substations by Great River Energy, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, and Alliant Energy. Wholesale power currently accounts for 70 percent of MVEC’s annual budget.
The remaining 30 percent of MVEC’s budget is local costs for delivering power from MVEC substations to your home or business. Many of these items are currently affected by inflation, as well as supply and demand. This includes poles, wire, trucks, office and warehouse facilities, substations, maintenance and repair of lines, repayment of loans, and employee costs.
When will the results of the Cost-of-Service Study be announced? Once the study and corresponding rate designs are completed, it is reviewed by the Board of Directors for final approval. Your Board takes the responsibility of setting fair rates seriously. After all, they are members of the cooperative and pay the same rates as all members – like you.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Fall is a busy time, and October is a particularly eventful month with school, community and sports activities in full swing. It’s also when cooperatives from many industries all over the world celebrate National Co-op Month.
When I say Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative celebrates Co-op Month, it really means we are celebrating you! After all, our co-op wouldn’t exist without you, our members.
Our core business purpose is to provide you safe, reliable and competitive electric service that exceeds your expectations, but the larger mission of the co-op is to help make our corner of the world a better place. “Concern for community” is one of seven guiding principles that all co-ops share.
MVEC works to help local communities thrive through initiatives led by our Team Members and Board of Directors—comprised of neighbors who live right here in our community. Because we’re local, we understand the communities’ unique needs and strive to be a responsible partner and good neighbor.
We’re proud to support local youth through our Youth Tour and $1,000 high school scholarship programs. Every summer, we help college students gain real world experience through our intern program. With your help, we offer Operation Round Up to provide assistance to local food shelves, fire departments, animal groups, and programs that serve all ages, from youth to senior citizens. Our Team Members are active in their local communities, serving on civic organizations, coaching sports teams and other projects near and dear to their hearts.
The word “cooperative” is close to “cooperation,” meaning people working together toward a common goal—mutually benefitting one another and the larger community. That’s the essence of the cooperative spirit. Our Team Members and member-elected board members are invested in the community in which we live and serve.
Above all, as a co-op we put our members’ priorities first. As your trusted energy partner, we know that saving energy and money is important to you. That’s why we have numerous programs in place to help, including residential Energy Wise and commercial generator programs, free and convenient payment options, time-of-use electric vehicle charging, a set it and forget it Wi-Fi thermostat program, and energy assistance options for those who need a little help managing their electric accounts.
Knowing how and when you use electricity is important because it impacts your monthly bill. We want to empower you to manage your home energy use. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a moment and create a free SmartHub account. Online and through the app, you can conveniently monitor and manage your energy use. And, of course, we are here to help, so give us a call if you have questions.
MVEC is continuously examining ways to operate more efficiently while continuing to provide the highest level of friendly, reliable service you expect and deserve. After all, we’re your local co-op. We were built by the members we serve.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
This summer, we’ve talked about the ups and downs of the energy market. Fortunately, the regional electric system weathered the summer’s heat just fine for a variety of reasons. MVEC members helped through your voluntary participation in load control Energy Wise and generator programs and member-driven conservation efforts. Prices, however, continue to rise for virtually all goods and services, including electricity. We see the impacts while shopping, at the gas pump and when paying bills.
Electric bill impact
Your MVEC electric bill varies each month and is impacted by the number of days in the billing cycle, weather, appliance use, household size, and more. Several years ago, MVEC separated costs on your bill to provide additional clarity to the underlying items which impact your monthly bill.
The Cost to Generate (wholesale power) is the co-op’s largest cost and makes up nearly 70 percent of MVEC’s budget. It includes the Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment (WPCA). In August, I mentioned a slight WPCA increase that averaged $3. This is a pass-through from power providers and covers variances in fuel and other commodity prices. Sometimes it is a bill addition, or it can be a reduction too.
The Cost to Deliver (MVEC) covers delivery, inventory, facilities, and our workforce. This also includes the $10 basic monthly service charge. Think of it like a membership fee. It covers the cost of maintaining power lines, transformers, and substations to make sure electricity is always available to you whether you use it or not. Our basic service charge is competitive with other local utilities.
MVEC members use the most electricity in the summer largely due to the air conditioning load. This results in higher costs in the summer months (June – September when rates = 12.5¢/kWh) because energy demand levels are higher than in the winter months (October – May rates which = 11.7¢/kWh). Energy Wise programs (see below) can reduce your monthly bill. If you’re not sure whether you participate in Energy Wise, check the front of your electric bill. It will either show your savings or say you’re not participating, as shown on right.
Cost-of-Service study this fall
MVEC rates have been stable since 2016 and are cost-competitive with local municipal utilities and Xcel Energy, an investor-owned utility. MVEC monitors the cost competitiveness of our rates compared to others. As we look ahead, a variety of factors may cause us to increase our rates. MVEC will conduct a Cost-of-Service study this fall. An outside rate consultant will review our electric rates to make sure the co-op has enough revenue for the cooperative to cover its expenses and meet our lenders’ margin requirements. The study also determines whether the cost to provide service to our various member types, both in total and by individual rate classes, are fair and equitable.
As we learn the results of the cost-of-service study, information will be posted on this dedicated page.
Thanks for being a member of MVEC.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Summer is here, and June quickly ushered in extremely hot temperatures, bringing attention to conservation efforts, grid reliability challenges, and higher electric usage due to cooling systems running nonstop to keep homes and businesses comfortable. Many things are happening in the energy industry. Below is a quick cooperative update.
Thanks for your energy conservation efforts, it helps you and the co-op save money
The most notable day of heat in June was on the 20th, topping off at 101 degrees. We asked members to conserve electricity and shift usage after the energy rush hour of 3-9 p.m. And that’s exactly what many of you did as the cooperative as a whole saved the equivalent of 1.9 million cups of coffee brewed or 10 times the energy needed to power the International Space Station for a day.
MISO and MVEC systems performed well in June
In June, there was adequate generation in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market, our region’s energy traffic controller. MISO monitors the electric grid system’s performance and reliability and alerts the region’s power providers when it looks like conservation efforts, sometimes on an emergency basis, are needed.
When this occurs, MVEC schedules various voluntary, member load control programs called money-saving Energy Wise or generator programs. A big thanks to members participating. Not only do you receive a lower electric rate or a monthly discount, it helps MVEC lessen high-cost peaks in energy demand and helps to
maintain balance on the power grid.
One of our wholesale power providers, Great River Energy, made minimal use of its peaking plants – the last resort for power generation when there is high demand.
Summer heat impacts your electric bill
Needless to say, despite conservation efforts, energy and fuel prices are impacting the co-op’s wholesale power costs – due to world events beyond our control. On your July electric bill, residential members saw a slight increase in the Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment (WPCA), averaging around $3. Because the WPCA is expected to continue to increase through 2022 into 2023, your Board of Directors voted to spread those costs over 12 months versus the usual three months to lessen the monthly impact.
The WPCA is an adjustment of actual costs versus what was forecast. It isn’t a new concept and has been around since 2000. In fact, we have given credits on 27 of the past 46 months on your electric bill. When the actual cost of power is below the forecast, the WPCA is a credit. If the actual cost is above the forecast, the WPCA is an addition.
Cost of Service rate study
Due to rising WPCA and market conditions, MVEC is conducting a rate study this fall. When there is a rapid change in the energy markets, it’s important to review the rate structure. MVEC will make sure the coop has financial stability and will balance how to best deal with economic changes that might impact the membership today and into the future. More details will be shared in upcoming newsletters.
Service area transition with Shakopee Public Utilities
MVEC and Shakopee Public Utilities (SPU) made a joint request to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in June to approve a plan for transferring customers from one utility to the other in light of the city of Shakopee’s annexation of JacksonTownship.
Both utilities mutually agreed on the service area boundaries impacted. Homeowners and businesses in Jackson Township, currently served by MVEC, will be welcomed as customers of SPU. Likewise, current SPU customers with Prior Lake addresses south of County Road 42 will become members of MVEC.
The switchover date with Shakopee is pending; however, we anticipate a completed transition by the end of 2022. It’s a win-win plan for both utilities.
So as summer winds down, know that your coop is working hard to be your trusted energy partner, safely providing reliable energy – at cost. To help educate members and keep open lines of communication, we’ve dedicated a web page called “Summer Energy Alert Information” with great resources for you to check out. Cooperatively yours, Ryan Hentges
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
In May, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) issued its 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment. In it, NERC – the U.S. authority on electric reliability -warned several parts of the country are at risk of energy shortfalls this summer due to predicted above-normal temperatures and drought conditions over the western half of the continent.
The announcement followed similar comments from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO).
I talked about MISO last month – MISO manages the power grid for 42 million people in the U.S. and Canada, including Minnesota. Think of MISO as the air traffic controller of the region’s grid. Using sophisticated technology and procedures, MISO has a wide-area view and control of the grid that goes beyond any one utility.
Although MISO projects the Midwest will have sufficient energy for the summer, it emphasized additional measures may be necessary to maintain reliable service during periods of peak demand. This typically occurs on hot and humid days when members are using more electricity than normal.
NERC indicated the north and central areas of MISO are in a “high risk” category due to generator retirements and increased demand. MVEC’s service area is in the north and central area of MISO and is considered “high risk.”
In emergency situations, MISO calls on additional power supply resources, imports energy from other regions and performs voluntary load reductions to manage the electric system. Temporary controlled manual load sheds, or periodic power outages (rolling blackouts}, are used as a last resort to keep the system in balance. These situations are rare and would occur only after other options are exhausted. If temporary controlled load sheds are needed, procedures are in place to act immediately when directed by MISO to shed load. load shed protocols and processes are defined and drilled routinely, so when these events happen, our wholesale providers are ready.
Could MVEC be affected? The short and honest answer is yes, it is possible. MVEC has contracted for enough generation to meet our members’ needs. However, power to our substations may be interrupted by MISO in emergency situations, known as a rolling blackout. Many factors go into the decision by MISO to direct rolling blackouts. Our wholesale power providers generate sufficient supply, but ultimately MISO takes the needs of the regional electric grid into consideration when determining whether to call for emergency rolling blackouts.
We will do our best to communicate with you in advance if MISO calls for an event that interrupts power. Communications will be made on our website, Facebook, Twitter and/or email notifications.
What can you do? Being energy conscious is important. There are lots of ways to save and conserve energy. Our website is a great resource for conservation efforts. The latest news and ways to be prepared are available at www.mvec.net/summerenergy-alert/.
Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. I hope it conveyed a balance of keeping you informed of potential issues, without unnecessarily sounding an alarm. We appreciate your partnership, and we’ll continue our focus on
providing safe, reliable, and affordable electric service.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
The electric grid is an extensive network of power plants, power lines, substations, and technologies owned and operated by different utilities, all striving to achieve the same goal: deliver service reliably and keep the lights on with affordable electricity to power daily lives. A combination of energy prices and supply chain issues are contributing factors when considering electricity costs. As a member-owned cooperative, MVEC is focusing on keeping member rates stable (legacy residential rates have not changed in the past six years); responsible use of the cooperative’s rate stabilization reserve fund (which helps to minimize a member cost increase); and the impacts rising energy costs can have on member bills.
We carefully watch energy market commodities and monitor how this impacts business operations. MVEC has a diverse power supply portfolio and purchases electricity from three wholesale power providers: Great River Energy, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, and Alliant Energy. For every dollar you pay on your electric bill, 70¢ goes toward paying for wholesale power costs – called “cost to generate” on your bill.
So where does wholesale power come from? The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) operates a power grid serving 15 central U.S. states and Manitoba, Canada. MISO’s wholesale market is where electric energy is bought and sold, and transmission is regulated. MISO helps the region’s electric providers deliver reliable, affordable energy in three ways:
Managing the grid
Think of MISO as the air traffic controller of our region’s grid. Using sophisticated technology, processes and procedures, MISO has a wide‐area view and control of the grid that goes beyond any one utility.
This helps utilities maintain reliability regionally and prevents emergency operating situations in the future or in real‐time. Forty-two million people depend on MISO to generate and transmit the right amount of electricity every minute of every day.
Managing energy markets
In decades past, coordinating power flows and transactions was a manual process requiring many agreements between utilities. Today, all generation production is sold into the MISO market and cooperatives buy back what they need to serve members. MISO’s energy market helps keep electricity affordable by using the lowest cost generation available first to supply members and minimize flow constraints across the grid. MISO provides transparency with energy market price changes occurring every five minutes, all seen in real time.
Rising prices in energy markets
The price of electricity in the MISO energy market has increased dramatically over the past several months due to many factors, but primarily natural gas price increases. Although MVEC’s margin reserves have been able to offset much of those rising costs, at some point, MVEC may need to pass those costs on to our members through the wholesale power cost adjustment on your bill, shown as part of the “cost to generate” line. This represents a pass-through from our power providers to cover variances in fuel and other costs that vary with commodity prices. We continue to find ways to keep costs down, but we also want you to be aware of potential future impacts.
On another note, supply chain challenges are being felt, and we are not the only ones experiencing this. For MVEC, supply delays mean longer wait times for materials, and costs are higher for essential supplies needed to operate our system. This could possibly linger to 2023 or beyond and affects new construction and service installations, as well as infrastructure planning into the future.
We are currently in a volatile and dynamic economic environment, which impacts the energy sector. As a non-profit, member-owned utility, we’ll continue to work hard to manage the impact this volatility has on your electric bill, while continuing to provide the service you expect.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual Meeting at Arlington Community Center on April 5. It was great to see member-owners in person and tell our co-op’s story of the past year, as well as the future. Annual meetings also mean Board of Director elections. This year, all three incumbents were returned to three-year terms. The commitment these nine individuals on our board of directors give to the cooperative is something I’d like to tell you more about.
In one of the most notable inaugural speeches given, John F. Kennedy spoke his famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” His inspiring words urged Americans to take actions that benefited the greater good. In essence, Kennedy was saying our country thrives when we all contribute our talents to the common good.
On a smaller scale, the same can be said about our co-op, specifically with regard to our board members. MVEC’s board members are community-minded individuals with a variety of skill sets. The board is made up of farmers, financial professionals, business owners, educators, and individuals with years of business experience. We rely on their knowledge of the cooperative business model to help us make informed decisions on long-term priorities and investments. MVEC directors are your fellow members who live right here in the co-op’s service area, and we consider them the eyes and ears of the community because they provide their perspective on important community issues.
We recognize it takes many people with different skills to create a well-rounded board that can represent the full spectrum of our community. But above all else, they are folks who love our community and want to see it thrive now and in the future.
What does it mean to serve on the cooperative board?
Serving on MVEC’s board means you’re making a difference locally, using your individual talents and perspective to guide big decisions about the co-op that in turn benefit the larger community. While day-to-day decisions are made by co-op staff, major decisions are made by the board, whose mission is to look out for the vitality of the co-op and the community it serves. On a granular level, board members typically provide input and guidance on:
- co-op goals and direction
- community/charitable contributions
- capital investments and upgrades in equipment and technology
- renewable investments and energy mix
- co-op’s role and involvement in economic development
In addition, some MVEC board directors represent the cooperative on a state and national level.
The energy industry is undergoing a major transition. Technology advancements and increased member preference for more renewable energy are driving change among other things. MVEC’s board reviews a great deal of information, make responsible decisions, and helps chart a course for our future.
Ultimately, our board is the community pulse for the co-op and helps keep us on the right track. We are passionate about our community and want to help it thrive. Thank you, MVEC board members, for guiding us in creating exceptional member experiences, while safely providing reliable energy at cost.
Supporting Earth Day: You have options to save!
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Earth Day is considered one of the world’s largest civic events, and on April 22, we can all be part of this global movement to help the environment.
There are many ways to protect the environment, and some are easier than you’d think. Check out these options to help reduce your energy use.
Give your smart or programmable thermostat a check up. If you have one, make sure it is programmed for the current season and family schedule. This is one of the best tools at your fingertips, however, you can only achieve these efficiencies and savings if the thermostat is programmed properly and adjusted periodically to keep pace with changes in household routines. If you have a WiFi thermostat, MVEC has an energy savings program and $50 rebate for you. Visit www.mvec.net/wifi-thermostat-program for all the details.
Pick GreenChoice! Your cooperative offers earth-friendly options that can help you reduce your carbon footprint. Choose from a variety of programs or services found on our GreenChoice web page: www.mvec.net/green-energy-options
Audit your light bulbs. Swapping out any remaining incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs can make a big difference in home efficiency, and it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce your energy bill.
Maintain your HVAC system. Replace your home air filters to allow your HVAC system to run more efficiently. I was guilty of this one, and there’s a video on MVEC’s YouTube channel to prove it! Air filters prevent dust and allergens from clogging your HVAC system. Changing the filters makes your unit run more efficiently – keeping your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
You can probably think of many more things that would fit your household’s lifestyle or look at tips and tricks on our Energy Savings web page: www.mvec.net/savings-rebates.
After all, the least expensive and cleanest energy is the energy we don’t use.
As we celebrate Earth Day this month, let’s continue to work together and make a positive impact on our local community – and our beautiful planet. MVEC’s vision statement supports that philosophy: to be a trusted energy partner loyal to the community – now and for future generations.
It’s an honor to serve you
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Guest Columnist/Board President Brent Lawrence
Our core job is keeping the lights on, but our passion is serving our members. Because we’re a co-op, our purpose is to enrich the lives of our members and serve the long-term interests of our community. This service focus is at the heart of who we are.
We were built and are led by the members we serve. Whether tested by severe weather events or a pandemic, our co-op puts people first — not just during tough times, but all the time. Over the years, our charitable efforts, staff volunteer service hours, and other locally-focused projects have served civic organizations, supported local schools and young people, supplied local food banks, assisted families in need to keep the lights on, and much, much more.
Here are a few reasons we are honored to serve you, the members of Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative.
- We enjoy serving our members because, without you, the co-op wouldn’t exist. Our purpose is to provide you with reliable, responsible, and safe electricity. Simply put, MVEC exists to serve you. That’s why we were formed in 1937––to bring power to our local area when for-profit utilities would not.
- You enable us to complete our mission by supporting our efforts to give back. A major part of MVEC’s mission and vision is to serve our community and look after the greater good. With your assistance, we’re able to help members of our community through food and toy drives and community grant programs like Operation Round and our Gift of Electricity program, which helps local families pay their energy bills when times are tough.
- Members of our co-op also serve on the board of directors. I’m privileged to work with a well-informed, dedicated group of Directors who provide guidance for setting co-op priorities and helping make big decisions. Because our board members live in MVEC’s service area, they’re able to serve as the pulse of the larger community and identify immediate and long-term needs. The broader co-op membership provides helpful input through their vote on director elections and by weighing in on co-op and community issues.
- You help us get it right. MVEC members are great about keeping us in the know. We do our best to avoid power outages, but Mother Nature can occasionally throw us a curveball; our members are quick to report any power disruptions and are patient as our crews work to safely restore power. We know outages are frustrating, and your support as we work through storms means so much to our line crews and staff. In 2021, we added the option of reporting member power outages through text messaging.
- You and other MVEC members make up the community we serve –\– and for us, it’s all about community. Our employees live and work here, too, and care about our community the same way you do. We’re invested and work to help it thrive. That’s why MVEC participates in community celebrations, supports local schools, and provides scholarship funds. It’s also why we invest in economic development, and why you’ll see our employees volunteering for youth sporting organizations, schools, churches, and other charitable and community endeavors.
As a co-op, it is important to enhance the quality of life in our community and look after its long-term interests. We truly enjoy serving our members and our local community, and just like you, want everyone to thrive.
President, MVEC Board of Directors
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
At the end of December 2021, your Board of Directors approved the 2022 budget. The cooperative’s budget provides the necessary investments for the coming year and forecasts the cost of the power we purchase on your behalf. We are happy to report the 2022 budget contains no rate increase. The last time our legacy general service rate increased was six years ago, in 2016.
The cooperative’s budget is a balance between making the appropriate investments while managing the cost of the electricity you use. Our budget seeks to align with our mission statement: to create exceptional member experiences, while safely providing reliable energy at cost.
Highlights of MVEC’s 2022 budget include the following:
• Investments in safety equipment and training to ensure our team has the resources to work within a culture of safety. It also accounts for cyber-security infrastructure and the necessary staff and training to keep our grid and data secure.
• Short-term and long-term grid investments are included to provide members the reliability they’ve come to expect, while also making continuous improvements to reduce the number and duration of outages. These investments include significant expenditures on grid maintenance and construction, as well as automation and tree-trimming to reduce outages. Page three of the Electric Eye shows where 2022 construction expenses are allocated.
• A forecast of costs for the power we purchase on your behalf. Energy costs around the world increased significantly in 2021; however, MVEC’s diversified power supply portfolio was able to absorb the impact without passing on an increase to your electric bill. The 2022 forecast assumes a similar dynamic. We are carefully watching domestic and global energy markets and making power supply decisions to effectively manage cost, risk, and sustainability.
• Investments in staffing to ensure we are able to carry out our mission and achieve the objectives mentioned above. MVEC’s staff is focused on serving you, our members, and dedicated to understanding your needs and providing answers and solutions to your energy questions.
As a not-for-profit cooperative, all investments are made with the understanding that they can impact our members’ monthly bills. We understand you are managing your own budgets, either personal or business, and electric rates can have an impact on your budgets. We seek to make wise investments over time that deliver the quality and service you deserve while maintaining the affordability you expect.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Along with eating better, moving more, and stressing less, why not put saving your energy dollars, making your home more energy-efficient, and taking advantage of free MVEC services on your 2022 resolution list.
Your co-op’s everyday resolution is to provide you, our member-owners, with reliable energy, delivered safely at cost. We also want to help you maximize the value of the service you get from MVEC through a variety of programs, products, and services we offer.
For example, we can help you save money on your energy bill with free energy use advice, Energy Wise programs, and rebates on energy-efficient products. When you sign up for a free SmartHub account, you can monitor and manage your home energy use, pay your bill online, and access additional options right from your phone or computer.
If you follow MVEC on social media, you can stay up to date on power restoration efforts, co-op events, and energy and safety tips. You’ll also see photos of our line crews in action and employees helping with community service projects.
You can sign up for text alerts and request outage and restoration updates — information you can also see online at www.mvec.net. MVEC exists to serve our members, and the more you know about the co-op and its programs, the better we can serve you. When you have questions about energy efficiency or products, we want to be the source you turn to.
Our January newsletter is full of ways you can maximize your co-op membership so that we can provide you with service that exceeds your expectations.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
If you’re like me, the holidays and the end of another year are a time of reflection.
At Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, we’re driven by a sense of mission and purpose. Our team feels a strong connection to our community and our members, because we live here, too. As we look back on a year of challenges and successes for the co-op and our members, we think about what the next year will hold. We believe a lot of good work and growth is ahead.
You’ve probably heard by now that energy fuel costs — specifically natural gas and propane — are on the rise. This means there will be higher costs due to demand, as well as colder weather conditions which impact your electric bill.
MVEC has not had a legacy general service rate change for the past five years. We are watching the commodities and energy markets and monitoring how this impacts our business operations. MVEC has a diverse power supply portfolio to help ensure your cooperative offers competitive rates, which are focused on being fair, equitable, and based on actual costs to maintain our 968-square-mile system. Our top priority is to safely deliver electricity to your homes and businesses at cost.
Electricity is vital in running your household, and extended usage in the winter (lights, heaters, entertaining) can add up. There are ways to mitigate your energy costs such as monitoring your usage with SmartHub, winterizing your home, and making smart energy choices.
If you do find yourself needing help with your electric bill, our Member Service Department is always here to suggest solutions.
At the heart of all of our efforts is you – the members we proudly serve. Looking back, I’m grateful for so many wonderful community opportunities and for the positive impact we can continue to make.
This holiday season, I wish you and your loved ones peace, joy, and prosperity. Speaking on behalf of our team at MVEC, I know the future will be bright, because of you.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Text messaging has become the preferred method of quick communication for many people. Whether texting a colleague to let them know we are running late or letting the spouse know we’ll pick up milk on the way home, has allowed us to be more efficient and timely in communicating with others.
The first text, “Merry Christmas,” was sent by computer in 1994. Mobile phones didn’t have keyboards then — remember tapping multiple times on a tiny phone number pad to get to the character you needed? By 2007, more texts than phone calls were made. Now, literally, trillions of texts are sent every day.
When the power goes out, you can reach for your smartphone to report your outage — whether by phone call or by text. Either way, your information is sent to our outage system, which helps dispatchers direct crews to the scene of an outage more efficiently.
We launched outage texting on Sept. 1 of this year. Just two weeks later, we had an outage and almost 9% of the outage notifications from members were sent in by text.
If you’d like to use text messaging to report an outage, make sure your phone number is matched to your SmartHub account and enable receiving notifications.
Don’t have a SmartHub Account?
Visit our SmartHub page and sign up for your free account. PDF and video directions are available to help you through the process.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Leander Wagner takes a sip of coffee, leans forward, and launches into a story of the past. He’s incredibly good with the details.
The great-grandson of early New Market-area settlers, Leander has seen generations of change and growth in the area, which is at the edge of MVEC’s southeastern service area. His great-grandparents arrived in the late 1880s. “My Grandpa walked to Shakopee and back to work in the brick factory,” he said.
As he remembered, his family always had electricity, going back to the 1920s when Northern States Power, an investor-owned utility, strung power lines along the more lucrative main roads in the area. He was five years old when “the REA came through” around 1938, bringing electricity to the remaining farms off the main grid.
Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative had been formed a year earlier, allowing farmers without power to take matters in their own hands and campaign their neighbors to join the new electric cooperative.
“I believe they needed at least five sign-ups per mile of line for it to make sense,” said Leander. Though there were some stubborn hold-outs at the time, the majority agreed, and MVEC became the power provider in the area.
“I remember our first refrigerator. It had one door and was on tall legs. It wasn’t very high, because I was three and a half and could reach everything,” said Leander. “There was a dome compressor on the top, and it was just big enough to hold the milk pitcher and usually some Jello and leftovers.”
“It was delivered late one afternoon, and my older brother and I thought ‘now that’s something.’ My Aunt didn’t have electricity and had to put everything in her basement to keep cool.”
Leander was the second child of five boys and three girls. In 1949, when he was 14, his father was in the hospital two weeks with appendicitis. “I was a sophomore and had the barn cleaned, cows milked, and was on the school bus by 8 a.m.”
Things were different in those days, he said. Neighboring farmers worked together and rallied together, even driving distances to help another farmer in need.
Leander spoke of an older neighboring farmer who was a mentor to him and offhandedly told Leander to check with him when he was older and he’d sell his farm to him. “Well, I remember it was the 6th of February, I brought it up to him, and by the 17th of March, he had his auction ready to sell. He was ready to be done and retire.”
Leander purchased that farm, and in 1960 became a member of MVEC. “It was natural to follow into my Dad’s footsteps,” he said.
In between his youth and running his own dairy and crop farm, Leander served in the Army from 1955-57 as a four-bar sergeant, stationed in Hanford, WA. He also worked construction and “poured a lot of cement” working on the last addition to Xcel Energy’s Black Dog power plant near Burnsville.
Leander also has served on several state and national agricultural boards, notably the National Farmer Organization for 17 years and the state and national American Dairy Association for over 20 years. Getting young farmers involved was a special initiative for him. He’s active with his local church as well.
Serving takes time, but it is a responsibility, he feels. “We are all born with different God-given talents,” he says. His specialty is asking questions. “You have to ask questions, especially when it involves the financial stuff,” he said. “A good leader surrounds himself with people who can help get the job done.”
It’s been 140 years since his ancestors settled in. They wouldn’t recognize their farming neighborhood today. Interstate 35 now borders to the east, and in 2007, New Market with a population of 330 in 2000 merged with Elko to become Elko New Market. The combined towns are now home to nearly 5,000 people. New Market’s newer residential areas and a small strip mall now occupy the land that once was his great-grandparents’ homestead. A large city park is named after the family.
Leander is still on his own 220-acre farm, the same farm he purchased from the Schmitz family in 1960. His son Darrian is the farmer now – the fifth generation on the land and the third generation of MVEC membership.
“4-H and FFA set me on my path and direction,” said Leander. Co-op membership – whether with MVEC or other ag organizations – helped him manage his money and invest in the future. “There’s a need for unions and cooperatives. They just have to be managed right, just like any other business.”
I enjoyed my conversation with Leander. It reminded me our communities formed our co-op to serve a specific purpose for our members. Today, we still seek to live by and achieve the vision set forth many years ago. To listen and serve our communities. That’s the cooperative way.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
Two hundred million pennies. That’s how much MVEC’s Operation Round Up (ORU) Trust Fund has given back to local community organizations since 1995.
If you participate in this program, you know that your monthly electric bill is rounded up to the next dollar amount. One month, it might be just one penny. The next month, 99 pennies. Usually, it’s somewhere in between. The average round-up amount is $6 a year.
There’s not much you can do with $6 a year. But add your $6 to the $6 that are rounded up from the electric bills of 24,000 of your fellow participating MVEC members, and the pot becomes $144,000 a year. What can you do with $144,000 a year? Plenty.
Operation Round Up grants have helped:
• Fire, police, and sheriff departments with life-saving equipment.
• Agencies that serve the handicapped and families in need.
• School and youth groups experiencing cutbacks.
• Food shelves and backpack programs (a big pandemic focus).
It took MVEC 17 years to hit the $1 million mark in 2012. Thanks to increased participation, the next million took 10 years. When will we hit the next million? The more pennies, the quicker we will get there, so please consider participating. Just over half of our members do. MVEC employees have the option to donate on their paychecks, and I am one of them.
I want to thank the Operation Round Up Trust Board and coordinator Chris Schwingler for their dedicated work each quarter in studying the grant requests, calling applicants for additional information, and making the important decisions of approving requests.
Most of all, I’d like to thank YOU for helping MVEC live the cooperative principle of Commitment to Community. We are a community in this together. Learn more about Operation Round Up.
former MVEC CEO
Member service available 24/7 at www.mvec.net
MVEC recently launched a newly designed website. A key part of having a well-designed website is providing a variety of capabilities for service options 24/7.
We understand our members are on the go and convenience is important. Members may be using mobile devices, iPads, or at their desktop computers.
It doesn’t matter which technology you’re using you can easily navigate our website and find what you’re looking for.
The homepage prioritizes content quickly and easily. Many topics identified are questions we get asked often. The site also offers a great search tool feature and a variety of language translations.
Did you know you can easily manage account information 24/7 with secure online service applications, sign up for money-saving programs, make payments, look at personal energy usage on a daily basis, or complete rebate applications?
And lastly, we have a great online resource center for outage information. The link is right on the home page “Power Outage Updates” and members can see a live outage map, outage updates, and much more.
I encourage you to check out www.mvec.net and thanks for being a member-owner of MVEC. We appreciate partnering with you on all your energy needs!
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
A foundational aspect of our cooperative business model is neighbors helping neighbors. Not only was this true when our cooperative was being built, but it remains true today.
A great example of this cooperation is MVEC’s Energy Wise programs. Together, our members enrolled in Energy Wise help reduce the cost of power that MVEC must purchase. In total, around 19,500 members participate in these Energy Wise programs, which have served our cooperative well for years by reducing the need to purchase electricity during high-cost time periods.
This June was an excellent example of the programs’ value. As you remember, the temperature reached 90 degrees for seven straight days. The heat significantly increased the amount of electricity used by MVEC members and most consumers in our region.
MVEC does not own power generation facilities; instead, we purchase electricity from power providers on your behalf. As the demand for electricity increases, so does the price. Fortunately, MVEC’s Energy Wise programs are tools we can use to help manage those price increases.
Do you participate? A complete list of MVEC’s Energy Wise programs can be found online at www.mvec.net/energywiseprograms. The programs include cycling air-conditioners, water heaters, and commercial generators. By cycling these appliances, overall energy usage is reduced, and the cost savings are passed on to the participating members.
The red line on the graph below shows the total electricity MVEC members used by hour on Thursday, June 10. The pink line shows what would have been used if the Energy Wise programs were not available. You can see there is a significant difference between those two lines; which represents electricity that did not have to be purchased. It is also interesting to note that total system usage at 4 a.m. (the lowest dip) on June 10 was more than peak usage on any day in April.
Are you one of the Energy Wise members who played a crucial role in helping the cooperative manage costs in June? We appreciate your partnership.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
For those of you following the news over the past few months, you’ve likely learned the energy business is complex, and there are many different organizations that impact the cost and reliability of the electricity you use. But how does our cooperative fit into the overall energy puzzle?
In order to answer that question, I’m going to describe the flow of electricity and organizations involved along the way.
First, electricity has to be generated. Generally, electricity is generated by coal, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, hydro and a few other sources. MVEC does not own any generating facilities. Rather, we have power supply contracts with three power supply organizations (Great River Energy, Basin Electric, and Alliant Energy) to generate the electricity we need to ensure adequate power when you need it.
Generating plants are located in a variety of areas – none of which are within Minnesota Valley’s service area. We rely upon a high-voltage transmission system to get the electricity from generating sources to our local area.
Just like generation, MVEC does not own transmission lines. Rather, we contract with Great River Energy to provide transmission services to get electricity from generating sources to MVEC-owned substations located throughout our service territory. The two areas of generation and transmission that I just described make up around 70 percent of your monthly bill.
MVEC has worked hard over the years to establish diversified contracts that balance cost and risk and continue to increase our overall renewable portfolio. This balance was demonstrated with the polar vortex in February. While many electric consumers in the southern United States saw reliability issues and are now being impacted by high bills, MVEC maintained reliable power supply, and our diversified power portfolio resulted in no negative financial impact to the co-op, even though overall market prices for electricity were extremely high.
But this was not accomplished just by MVEC, our power suppliers, and our transmission providers alone, but by participants in our energy market, known as Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO. Although we have contracts which dictate the cost of the energy we purchase, we are part of a larger grid managed by MISO. They are responsible for ensuring the supply of electricity meets the demand of electricity on a daily basis.
Once power is generated, it is transmitted to 29 MVECowned substations located throughout our service area. From our substations, it becomes our responsibility to get electricity to your home or business, traveling across 4,000 miles of overhead and underground lines, through distribution transformers, regulators, and capacitors, and finally, through the meter on the side of your home or business.
From our substations to your meter is what we refer to as the distribution grid. The distribution grid is what MVEC owns and operates and is the focus of daily operations at our co-op.
Ultimately, it’s not critical that you remember all the different players and organizations involved. It’s our responsibility to advocate on your behalf and to ensure all parties involved operate in a manner that meets our local needs. But I do think it’s helpful for you to understand what is owned and operated by MVEC, and where we have to work with others on your behalf.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
There are many topics discussed in the energy business. Many people are interested how electricity is generated and like to talk about all the great uses and applications of electricity. While these are important conversations, we must also be mindful of the fundamentals of the delivery and use of electricity. One such fundamental is safety.
As an electric distribution cooperative, we are focused on ensuring the safety of our team and our members. There are many ways we go about ensuring a culture of safety. Here are a few I’d like to highlight:
MVEC has a safety director who is focused on helping our organization maintain a safe working environment. Our safety director identifies areas of improvement, keeps up with industry developments, conducts field visits and ensures our entire team is getting necessary training. He leads our safety committee and meets weekly with our crews to discuss relevant items.
He also follows up on near-miss reports. A near miss is a situation where an injury could have occurred, but fortunately did not. Each year, we set a goal that each employee submits a near-miss report. These near-misses are shared with the team to help educate and inform everyone about potential hazards. We look at near-misses as great opportunities to understand our environment and look for ways to improve.
An important aspect of our safety culture is job briefings. Prior to conducting their work, each crew goes through a process of evaluating and understanding potential hazards on the job site. There are a variety of issues they may need to address such as traffic, wet conditions, complex power configurations and dangerous equipment. Often, in order to restore an outage, the crews have to coordinate with other crews and our dispatch center.
Our team also works to keep our members safe and is trained to watch for issues on the distribution system which could potentially cause safety concerns. This includes equipment issues, attachments on our poles or trees growing too close to the power lines.
Safety is a partnership. Within our organization, we work hard to partner with each other and build a culture of safety. We also see it as a partnership with you. Your safety is important to us. Please remember, prior to digging, to call 811 and have the area checked for utility lines buried below the surface. If you see downed power lines, stay away and call our dispatch center to report the situation. And finally, when working around the house, be careful around electricity.
Thanks for the opportunity to serve you.
By Ryan Hentges
former MVEC CEO
If you were asked to associate an image or a person with Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, I bet you would picture a lineworker. One of the most visible employees of the coop, lineworkers work tirelessly to ensure our community receives uninterrupted power 24/7.
“Lineworker” is listed as one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S. This is understandable as they perform detailed tasks near high-voltage power lines. Regardless of the time of day, having to brave stormy weather and other challenging conditions, lineworkers must climb 40 feet in the air, often carrying heaving equipment to get the job done.
Being a lineworker is not a glamorous or easy profession. It takes years of specialized training, ongoing education, dedication, and equally important, a sense of service and commitment. How else can you explain the willingness to leave the comfort of your home to tackle a challenging job in difficult conditions, when most are sheltering comfortably at home? This dedication and sense of service to the community is truly what sets them apart. That’s why we set aside the second Monday in April to celebrate and recognize the men and women who work around the clock to keep the lights on.
While lineworkers may be the most visible employees at MVEC, it’s important to note that there is a team of highly skilled professionals working behind the scenes. Engineers provide ongoing expertise and guidance on the operations side of the coop. Member service reps are always standing by to take your calls and questions. Our information technology (IT) experts are continuously monitoring our system to help safeguard sensitive data. And these are just a few of the folks who work together to ensure we can deliver the service and reliability you expect and deserve. Without them, our lineworkers wouldn’t be able to “bring the light” to our community.
Our dedicated and beloved lineworkers are proud to represent Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, and they deserve all the appreciation and accolades that come their way on Lineworker Appreciation Day.
On April 12, and any time you see a lineworker, I hope you’ll join me in thanking them for their exceptional service. I also hope you’ll remember that you have a dedicated team of professionals working behind the scenes at the coop whose commitment to service runs just as deep.