CEO Column April 2024

Above photo: Lake Region Electric Cooperative’s CEO Tim Thompson recently testified in support of local control for cooperatives. Locally elected co-op board members know their neighbors and are in the best position to serve their needs.

Legislative Priorities

I write this column fresh off attending the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) Annual Meeting in St. Paul on March 19th and 20th. I left the Annual Meeting feeling positive in many ways, and although there are challenges facing our industry, my faith in the cooperative spirit makes me optimistic because I know we have the people in place who can overcome such challenges.

The MREA Annual Meeting focused on many legislative priorities for electric cooperatives. Our future relies heavily upon reliable and affordable electricity. I have never encountered a person who is against clean energy so long as it does not compromise the reliability and affordability of the electricity we so heavily rely upon for our homes, businesses, and communities. As co-ops, we must remain positive, remain innovative, and we must be afforded the tools necessary to accomplish the goals set by the 2040 Carbon Free Standard. These tools include cooperatives being able to utilize an “all tech on deck” approach to achieving our carbon reduction goals, including but not limited to lifting, or modifying, Minnesota’s current nuclear moratorium restricting our ability to add new carbon-free nuclear to our energy portfolio.

Another tool we need to enable progress during this energy transition is permitting reform. The current process is challenging and greatly hinders our ability to deploy new renewable energy sources. It is a priority for co-ops to support legislation to reform the permitting process, and we can do so without compromising public input, community involvement, and the Public Utility Commission’s ability to make informed decisions.

I am so appreciative of the efforts of MREA and its government affairs team that works relentlessly with legislators across the state to keep and pass legislation that supports electric cooperatives.

Left to Right: MREA CEO Darrick Moe, LREC CEO Tim Thompson, TWEC Director Kristine Spadgenske, and  Connexus CEO (now retired) Greg Ridderbusch. 

Building and Strengthening Relationships

In order to meet the 2040 Carbon Free Standard, we must continue to build and strengthen relationships with our members, and everyone else involved in decisions affecting co-ops. One of my favorite parts of the MREA Annual Meeting is the opportunity to have conversations with our local legislators. I want to express my gratitude to Senator Jordan Rasmusson, Senator Rob Kupec, Representative Tom Murphy, and Representative Jeff Backer for all taking time to meet with three LREC directors and me during the event. All four legislators provided us their time, and best of all, afforded us the opportunity to sit and have a conversation with them about the foundation of co-ops: reliable and affordable electricity, member ownership, and member elected directors who make decisions locally for the co-ops they represent. Many of us have different opinions on what is in the best interests for our future, but it is critical, more now than ever, to build and establish strong and long-lasting relationships to serve as the foundation for the trust needed to continue to strengthen our electric cooperatives.

Our relationships with our members, legislators, and partners such as MREA and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) are so critical as we effect change together in ways that are positive and lead to decisions that are in the best interests of our cooperative.

Annual Meeting

I invite you all to attend your LREC Annual Meeting on April 18th. We once again will have three in-person locations—Fergus Falls, Frazee, and Parkers Prairie. For those who cannot attend in-person, please join us virtually. The Annual Meeting is such a great example of grassroots governance, being together, and sharing our time so LREC continues to be the cooperative you all deserve.