Every October is a chance to celebrate cooperatives, uniquely local organizations. This year’s National Co-op Month theme is “Co-ops: By the Community, For the Community.” This theme reflects the way our business is organized and the principles at its core. Most importantly, it highlights one of the most distinctive cooperative advantages — that of local governance.
This is a key difference between an electric cooperative and other utility corporations. The actual power to set policy, rates, and direction for Lake Region Electric Cooperative resides with our members, those who use the cooperative’s services. Local governance means that control is exercised by a board of directors elected solely from the ranks of fellow members. There are no outside shareholders to placate with a motive of profit or politics.
As a Lake Region Electric Cooperative member-owner, you have an incredibly valuable, local perspective. In turn, local governance ensures that the cooperative is well-suited to meeting its members’ needs.
Our employees are your neighbors. They recognize the critical nature of the services we provide and view Lake Region as a convener for the common good. Our mission is to enrich the lives of the members we serve.
Cooperatives generate jobs in their communities and pay local taxes to help support community services. Cooperatives often take part in community improvement programs, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the cooperative experience. For example, Lake Region’s extension of natural gas to previously unserved communities grew out of a recognition of unmet needs. After considerable examination, planning, and financial modeling, we called on the strength of our cooperative to create a win-win situation for these communities as well as Lake Region.
Because cooperatives are community born and community led, observing National Co-op Month affords us an opportunity to reflect on our origins and past accomplishments. However, it’s equally important that we use this as a springboard to the future.
Electric cooperatives are poised to continue transforming the electric sector. Employing new approaches and innovative technologies will provide a path toward a more diverse and sustainable future. Visionaries in the early days of cooperative rural electrification would likely be astounded by today’s energy industry. Certainly, they wouldn’t have expected that the wind they depended on to pump water for livestock or the sunshine that dried their clothes would eventually be used to produce commercial grade electricity, such as in Lake Region’s recent innovative hybrid project. Ours is an example of how we have improved the resiliency and efficiency of our system while also reducing environmental impacts by adding renewable resources.
This hybrid project, located in Trondhjem Township, consists of a single 2.3-megawatt turbine and a 500-kilowatt solar array that is interconnected directly into a distribution feeder of the rural Erhard Substation. All of the output is utilized by local Lake Region members.
Being invested in the success of our local communities will remain extremely important in the years ahead. The nation’s electric cooperatives have a powerful voice on state and national issues that will impact us locally. Together, we are being heard. Together, we will continue to fight for local governance of cooperatives and for keeping our electric service affordable, safe, and reliable. Our collective, and local, future depends on it!