We cannot tell you how disappointing it is that we are announcing, for the second year in a row, we will be holding a business-only annual meeting, with only mail-in ballots and no in-person gathering. The days when we can comfortably bring you all together in one room to celebrate the business of the cooperative are on the horizon, but without knowing how long it will take to do so safely, your board of directors made the difficult decision to wait until next year to hold an in-person meeting. We all sincerely hope that the annual meeting we have next year will be back to business as usual, with a bigger and better meeting than ever.
2020 was a year most of us would like to move on from. Between the global health pandemic that has affected us in so many ways, and the social, cultural and economic challenges facing us right now, I think we can safely say we are all looking forward to better years in front of us. In many ways, 2020 was not a great year for your cooperative, but there are certainly some bright spots to reflect on and be thankful for. We fought our way through the obstacles and eventually ended up with kWh sales down 5.5% from the previous year, but were able to end the year within our targeted financial metrics and post a net margin of $5.03 million. We met all our financial goals and exceeded all our fiscal obligations. Most importantly, we were able to deliver the power you needed in a safe and reliable manner.
We are happy to say that for 2020, we were able to hold the line on retail rates for the fourth year in a row. The importance of keeping rates down for our member-owners cannot be overstated. Our team works diligently to keep expenses in check so more of your hard-earned dollars stay in your pockets where they belong.
In March 2020, like you, we had to adapt due to the changes brought on by the pandemic. At a time of uncertainty, our focus was clear: keep our group healthy so the lights stayed on. We quickly and safely established new working practices to limit the potential health risks to our employees. It was clear, even in altered times, we had to be there to provide service to our members. We are happy to report it was mission accomplished.
We made adjustments to protect our employees when the pandemic hit and to ensure we were here to provide for the needs of the membership. Some of those measures have been a big success and will continue to be part of our regular offering of services. Early last summer, we developed additional online resources to help members sign up for services or make adjustments to their services. Those inclusions will continue to be a regular mainstay. To better serve our members after hours, we changed our dispatching service to a 24-hour service staffed with multiple stations. Now, when you call after regular business hours to report a problem, you will know right away if we have a previously reported problem in your area, saving you time on the phone and providing more detailed information about the situation.
Continuing our commitment to stay up to date on the modern uses of electricity, we installed the first Level 3 fast charging station for electric vehicles in our service area. Because of a grant from the state of North Dakota, we were able to install the station for a fraction of the total cost. As we plan for the future, we will continue to make investments in technology and reliability. We currently have an adequate source of wholesale power to meet the needs of our growing membership and more. However, future state and federal policies could impact the ability to stay the course with the diverse mix of generation we currently enjoy. Because of this, we stay intimately involved in our wholesale power provider’s generation resource planning and support their approach to utilizing all of North Dakota’s abundant natural resources to provide the power we need.
In a cooperative like Nodak Electric, you are a member-owner of the business. One of the major differences between a cooperative and an investor-owned utility is that you earn an ownership stake in the business through purchasing power from us called capital credits. Those dollars are used by the cooperative to operate the business and are eventually retired and returned to you in the form of a bill credit. In keeping with your board’s commitment to this business model, in 2020 your board of directors approved the retirement of $2,000,000 in capital credits. In all, that totals $7.75 million your cooperative has returned to current and past members in the last five years.
While there were many changes in 2020 and in early 2021, our commitment to you, our members, has not and will not change. It is obvious that working together is key to our success as a cooperative and that is why you are an important part of the cooperative business model. Without your support, your feedback and your appreciation, Nodak’s success would not be possible. Thank you for your participation in the cooperative and thank you for the opportunity to serve our membership over the last year. It has truly been a privilege to serve you and on behalf of the entire board and management team at Nodak, I am happy to say your cooperative is in a good position for the future.