Directors represent you!
Ryan Hentges, 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.
Previous CEO messages:
Supporting Earth Day: You have options to save!
Ryan Hentges, 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
“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.