We had a great 86th annual meeting on April 13th! Once again we had in-person meetings in Fergus Falls, Frazee, and Parkers Prairie, together with a livestream option. Nearly 1,200 people attended the event either in-person or via livestream — marking the second year in a row that attendance for LREC’s annual meeting has been around 1,200. Providing several meeting attendance options has worked very well these past two years. LREC members who were unable to attend the live meetings are encouraged to watch the annual meeting video at www.lrec.coop/annualmeeting. I look forward to the annual meeting each year because it is such a great example of all of us working together at the grassroots level — member-owners coming together to elect their directors who make decisions on a local level that are in the best interests of the co-op’s membership.
Before the meeting and during the meal catered by Betty’s Pantry, Tim Eggebraaten, known as the “Off Duty Chief,” kept our members and attendees entertained by playing live music and interacting with the crowd.
LREC’s Board Chair Tom Jennen opened the meeting and spoke about being grateful for his opportunity to serve on a board elected by our members. Jennen recognized the retirement of District 8 Director Sid Wisness and his 15 years serving the LREC membership. Jennen stated that the LREC Board of Directors approved general service rate changes that will go into effect in September. Jennen highlighted the fact that member-owners of LREC are the reason for LREC’s existence, and that LREC would not be in business if not for all of them. I could not agree more. Jennen thanked LREC’s employees who are committed to serving all of you.
LREC had a successful year in 2022, including positive member feedback, rate stability, and LREC’s continuing prioritization of reliability as shown by the recent upgrades made by LREC and Great River Energy (GRE) to transmission lines and substations. I greatly appreciate our board of directors and its focus on safety, reliability, and affordability. The board also supports investing in innovative technology like Exacter that is able to identify equipment in pre-fail conditions before outages occur, and AiDash, which provides us imagery of our service territory that we never had before. This allows us to specifically target and attack the areas where trees and other vegetation interfere with our system.
As mentioned in prior newsletters, at the January district meetings, and through social media, LREC had a cost-of-service study completed by an independent rate consultant last year. This study guided the board’s decision to make rate changes that will go into effect in September. At the annual meeting, I explained the reasons for the LREC rate changes, most notably the increased wholesale cost of power and higher costs of materials. Another reason the changes will go into effect in September is so we have sufficient time to communicate and explain the changes to all of you. One great feature at the annual meeting this year was that we had a rate booth at each site that allowed members an opportunity to see exactly what their bills will look like after the new rate changes go into effect. Financially, LREC is in a strong position and a record amount of $1,859,794 of capital credits was paid to members in 2022.
Special guest Zac Ruzycki, director of resource planning for Great River Energy (GRE), presented on GRE’s generation resources, including key reliability assets such as GRE’s gas peaking generation. Ruzycki discussed the Carbon Free Standard law passed in Minnesota earlier this year and indicated that GRE is well positioned to be in compliance with the law with minimal action because of decisions GRE and its members have made since 2010 in anticipation of a carbon constrained policy landscape. Ruzycki concluded his presentation by sharing that GRE is (1) competitively positioned for compliance with new governmental policies; (2) early actions and decisions in past years have yielded long-term rewards; and (3) that GRE has a diverse resource mix that addresses energy and reliability needs.
LREC welcomes one new director, Jim Gronbeck, who was elected by acclamation in District 8. Incumbent director Cecil “Bud” Hensel of District 2 was elected by acclamation, and incumbent director Patrick Meyers of District 5 was elected by acclamation. Gronbeck will fill the open seat left by Sid Wisness, who retired after serving as District 8 Director for 15 years.