Lake Region Electric Cooperative marked a great achievement on July 13th when Lake Region Energy Services (our wholly owned natural gas subsidiary) went before a hearing of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
We did a lot of analysis and preparation in advance of the hearing. It paid off. The PUC granted our cooperative an exemption to be considered a small natural gas utility for the natural gas extensions we are building into the Deer Creek and Parkers Prairie communities. This means we will be able to set our natural gas rates at the local level like we do our electric rates. The action puts an official stamp of approval on our efforts to help the residents of these communities with a planned investment of $1.6 million into natural gas infrastructure.
I found it equally encouraging that the Commissioners understand our co-op principles and have respect for our cooperative business model. They recognize that Minnesota’s electric cooperatives have done a lot of good for the state’s rural residents throughout the years. They also seemed pleased with Lake Region’s willingness to use the expertise gained from our 80 years in the electric distribution business and apply it to the natural gas business. I view this as a great endorsement for electric cooperatives.
I want to thank the Commissioners for their support. Their main responsibility is to make sure all rate payers are taken care of and treated fairly. This is consistent with what we at Lake Region do every day and have done for 80 years. The entire process leading up to the PUC hearing was quite arduous and certainly presented us with a learning curve. Nevertheless, the outcome is a significant step forward for Lake Region and affirmed that we are leading the curve in providing energy services.
I wish to express our sincere thanks to everyone who was involved in this process. We began our effort by working closely with the Minnesota Department of Commerce. We then worked with the PUC staff and, of course, it was the PUC commissioners who made the final determination. I appreciate the full consideration to this matter that was given along every step of the way.
Coffee and Conversation
I truly believe that our success before the PUC can be linked to the ways Lake Region focuses on, and interacts with, its members. You see, it’s all about people and being local. On July 7th, I had the privilege of participating in a grassroots forum in the Village of Cormorant which is located in LREC’s Director District 1. The forum provided me with an opportunity to answer some terrific questions and talk shop over a cup of coffee — both are things I enjoy. Visiting with the attendees was fun and provided me with valuable input that I will share with your board of directors and employees.