I look forward to seeing many of our members on June 6th for our annual meeting.
Just think of how far we’ve come since the cooperative was formed. Back in 1937, rural people came together to build a truly local grassroots democracy — the same electric cooperative that you own and control today! This was a time of kerosene lamps flickering in the darkness of the Great Depression. Yet, in a spirit of neighbors helping neighbors, rural people came together to build themselves a way to bring electricity to their farmsteads.
Today, we still gather together in the same spirit for our annual membership meeting. And, we still depend on local governance by our board of directors elected from and by fellow members of the cooperative. The cooperative way of doing business works and it works for you!
This past year, Lake Region Electric Cooperative continued to focus on some key issues — Rate Stability, Service Reliability, and Renewable Energy. We’ve been very successful in all three areas.
We Use Our Resources Wisely. Our rates have remained stable and no increase is planned for this year. In fact, our controllable expenses per member in 2018 were the same as in 2004! We’ve been diligent about holding down expenses, yet we haven’t skimped on the maintenance of our utility plant or vegetation management along the power line rights-of-way. This is evident in a 50 percent reduction in outage times since 2004.
Money Back to You. Fewer power outages and stable rates are both signs of a solid and successful cooperative. Additionally, Lake Region has paid back more than $1 million in capital credits in each of the last six years. Since we began retiring capital credits in 1958, more than $24 million has been returned to Lake Region’s members, former members, and estates.
Increased Member Equity. Another measure of fiscal health is the level of member equity in Lake Region Electric Cooperative. Our level of member equity has continued to increase, up by $36 million since 2005, to today’s equity of $59 million. We are proud of these accomplishments and recognize that they would not have been possible without the dedication of our board of directors and employees.
New Service, New Source of Revenue. Another area in which our employees have really shined is with our natural gas subsidiary. We now have approximately 500 natural gas customers. We are pleased to bring this service to areas in which it was never previously available. Included in that customer base are schools, churches, family farms, and individuals. Our development of the natural gas business somewhat mirrors the early days of rural electrification. Not only did we identify a need that wasn’t being met, but we devised a way to serve it. The natural gas business has created a new stream of revenue into the cooperative. The same can be said about our standby generator program. Adding new sources of revenue translates directly into keeping electric rates stable. We have cross-trained employees to work in both the electric and natural gas sectors, thereby offsetting employee expenses on the electric side by approximately $200,000 a year.
Less Dependence on Coal. Great River Energy (GRE), our electric generation and transmission cooperative, supplies wholesale energy to Lake Region Electric Cooperative. As GRE provides more electricity produced by wind and solar resources, it lessens its dependence on coal. This also reduces carbon dioxide emissions. GRE has set an aggressive goal of having 50 percent of the electricity it produces be from renewable energy sources by 2030.
Locally, we are very pleased with our development of the Lake Region Community Hybrid Project. This innovative project harnesses energy from both wind and solar. We anticipate that this energy source will save approximately $200,000 per year in purchased wholesale energy costs.
Our Pledge. It’s our pledge to continue making a positive difference in the lives of Lake Region’s members and our local communities. Working for you — it’s the cooperative way!