Great River Energy (GRE) provides wholesale power and delivery services to Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric and 27 other electric cooperatives that collectively own GRE.
Together, these cooperatives provide retail electric service to more than 720,000 member-owners across Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin.
With stable wholesale rates, record-setting transmission reliability and a plan to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Great River Energy is living up to its mission and fulfilling its promise to member-owner cooperatives.
Strong financials in 2021
While other types of businesses strive to produce returns for investors, cooperatives focus on service. When there’s excess revenue collected, it’s reinvested in the company or returned to members.
That spirit of sharing guided Great River Energy throughout 2021. Due to strong sales and cost containment, GRE recorded very strong margins. Great River Energy issued bill credits to members several times during the year and returned $25 million in patronage capital payments.
GRE’s financial position has never been stronger. Great River Energy’s wholesale power rates are 10.9% below the weighted regional average cost of electricity, and they are projected to remain steady or decline over the next several years.
Energy evolution underway
2021 witnessed some of the most significant and lasting changes to Great River Energy’s power supply portfolio. By dramatically reducing coal and more than doubling its renewable resources, GRE worked toward reducing its power supply costs and minimizing its environmental impact.
Great River Energy reached an agreement to sell its largest power plant, the coal-based Coal Creek Station located in central North Dakota. In addition, the 436-mile high-voltage, direct-current transmission system that delivered the plant’s energy to Minnesota was contracted to provide a dedicated pathway for the planned 400-megawatt (MW) Discovery Wind Project.
This shift has the cooperative positioned to meet Minnesota’s 80% carbon dioxide emissions reduction goal more than 25 years ahead of schedule.
Battery comes into focus
Great River Energy’s partner on its upcoming Cambridge Energy Storage Project, Form Energy, revealed long-awaited details about its technology. The primary component of Form’s first-of-its-kind, multi-day battery is also a cornerstone of Minnesota’s economy: iron.
While other battery technologies employ expensive and rare metals, iron is one of the safest, cheapest and most abundant minerals on Earth—and it is found in Minnesota’s Iron Range.
The energy storage project is expected to be in operation at the end of 2023 in Cambridge, Minnesota. It will be the first commercial deployment of Form Energy’s proprietary multi-day energy storage technology.
Serving members reliably
Transmission reliability is among the most important aspects of electric service. The electric system has developed over time and undergoes constant monitoring and maintenance to ensure it is reliable and resilient. Eight of the 10 metrics GRE uses to assess transmission reliability were at all-time records in 2021.
Great River Energy’s system performed well in June 2021 despite temperatures repeatedly reaching above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The system did not experience any overloading, and GRE did not need to make any special operational changes. Every resource in Great River Energy’s power supply portfolio played a role in serving its member-owner cooperatives.
A responsible conclusion
Two-and-a-half years after the retirement of the Elk River Energy Recovery Station, the power plant site now resembles how it likely looked a century ago.
Crews spent much of 2021 removing underground structures, disposing of building materials and landscaping. The site has been graded to match the surrounding topography and seeded with pollinator plantings.
Transmission utility partnership builds under Grid North Partners
A partnership of utilities responsible for more than 800 miles of high-
voltage transmission lines has been reinvented. Great River Energy was central to the launch of Grid North Partners, a collaboration with ambitions to build the next series of projects needed to ensure continued reliable, affordable energy and open new pathways for renewable energy. Grid North Partners is an evolution of CapX2020.
Grid North Partners worked with regional partners to identify the regional transmission enhancements needed to integrate the changing generation fleet while educating policymakers and other stakeholders on the purpose and need for transmission.
Guided by members
Great River Energy measures its success by how well it serves its member-owners and interacts with the communities it serves. Member satisfaction remains high, and GRE is advancing the industry to new places.
Great River Energy is living its mission to provide member-owners with affordable, reliable energy in harmony with a sustainable environment.