Picture Yourself At A Co-Op

Did you know that cooperatives power 56% of our nation’s landmass, serving 42 million people in 48 states? Rural electric co-ops are the backbone of our economy, especially in states like North Dakota and Minnesota, where many consumers live in rural areas. Electricity is vital to enhancing our communities, small and large – and you can be a part of it with a career at a cooperative.

Not sure what you or your recently graduated student would do in the energy industry? The options are nearly endless! Electric co-ops offer diverse career tracks, both at your local distribution utility – Nodak Electric Cooperative – and at the regional co-ops that generate and transmit electricity, like Minnkota Power Cooperative.

Here is just a small segment of the opportunities:

Engineers – From electrical to civil to mechanical and beyond, co-ops need a wide array of these technical innovators.

Environmental Scientists – Co-ops take environmental stewardship to heart, and this team helps maintain the highest levels of land, water and air quality.

Lineworkers – Day or night, these height-defying heroes make sure power lines are well maintained and working properly.

Information Technology Specialists – Whether it’s PC networking, power system operating or cybersecurity monitoring, IT experts are vital to the electric industry.

Project Managers – Cooperatives have to juggle several projects at once to keep power flowing, so these planners make sure things stay on budget and on schedule.

Power Plant Technicians – These industry pros ensure the machinery of generating energy is running smoothly, safely and efficiently.

Member Services Representatives – If members have questions about their electricity, these are the friendly voices who guide them to savings and efficiency.

Electricians – You can’t have electricity without electricians, so these folks assemble all of the connections that get power from point A to point B.

Business Professionals (Human Resources, Accounting, Communications, etc.) – Cooperatives are filled with people who run numbers, write newsletters and hire new employees to round out the cooperative team.

A career with an electric co-op is rewarding in many ways. You get the satisfaction of knowing you’re part of a not-for-profit organization that prioritizes reliable member service. Plus, employees enjoy competitive salaries and benefit packages to ensure individuals and families are supported along the way. 

Consider a career at an electric cooperative. Visit careers.electric.coop

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Committed To Keeping You Safe

Safety is an everyday thing, especially for line crews; however, spring and fall are times when we tend to talk about it more with our members. Farmers are back in the fields, homeowners are eager to get out of the house, and kids are outside riding bikes and playing in the parks. All of these things require additional vigilance on everyone’s part to ensure we all stay safe. 

Our farmers will be spending long hours using heavy equipment that can be inherently dangerous.  Homeowners will bring out saws, mowers and ladders as spring cleanup begins, and our kids will be crossing busy streets, riding bikes to school and play. With all this activity going on, we need to be reminded to follow safety instructions and to watch out for each other at the same time.  

May is National Electric Safety Month. As a member-owned electric cooperative, we are committed to keeping members and employees safe. Electrical safety is a common topic with the employees of Nodak Electric Cooperative, but May is a time when we make an extra effort to educate and inform our members about the dangers of electricity. 

While electricity is a necessity in modern-day life, the same electricity used to power our daily lives can be dangerous, even life-threatening if used improperly. We regularly print articles in this publication with tips on how to avoid being hurt by electricity. I would encourage you to take a few moments and read those short articles and ask yourself if you are following those potentially life-saving tips. 

One recommendation we don’t stress often enough is to have a qualified electrician tackle all of your wiring projects. Not only will they ensure your project is done properly, they will notice if something is not up to current Electrical Code. 

The standards for safe electrical wiring can change from time to time. Even though your system may have been installed correctly according to the code in effect at the time it was put in, it may not adhere to today’s National Electric Code. For example, your wiring may have been done before GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets were required but, depending on their location, they may be required for new construction today. A qualified professional would notice such a departure from current code requirements and suggest you change them out. 

Seemingly simple improvements like this can make a dramatic difference in securing your family’s safety. For their sake and yours, consider hiring a qualified electrician for your next project, no matter how big or small. 

For those of you who partici-pated in our annual meeting by voting for the board of directors, thank you for taking the time to participate in your cooperative’s business. We had 2,053 members cast votes in our board of directors election through mail-in ballots.  Congratulations to David Brag and David Hagert, who were reelected to new three-year terms, and welcome to our newest board member, Ryan Benson, who is beginning his first three-year term. This meeting also marked the end of the long career of director Paul Sigurdson. Paul served your cooperative with distinction for more than 30 years. I would like to thank Paul for his strong commitment over the years and wish him well in his new endeavors.

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Power Over The Market

Energy marketers combine reliable resources and demand response to avoid a cold-weather crisis

In mid-February, millions of Texans were learning how to get through brutal winter temperatures with no electricity, while many more were researching how to pay for suddenly enormous power bills. 

During that same subzero-weather event, a group of energy marketers at Minnkota Power Cooperative (Nodak Electric Cooperative’s wholesale energy provider) was getting a lesson on how to protect the cooperative’s members from facing similar ice-cold consequences. And they skillfully passed the test.

“We’ve seen some extreme temperatures locally, and we know how that plays into what we do day-to-day,” said energy marketer Mark Fulbright, who has been with Minnkota less than two years. “But during this event we had the opportunity to see extreme temperatures spread across the country, and how that can add a new dimension to how we handle operations here.”

The “we” that Fulbright refers to is a trio of fairly new additions to Minnkota’s power supply and resource planning department. Along with Fulbright, energy marketers Amber Langemo and Isaac Hoffart were all hired within the past two years, all three missing the last polar vortex event in January 2019. They join experienced energy marketer Dan Trebil, an 8-year veteran of powering through climate anomalies.

“They handled a very stressful situation very well,” said Todd Sailer, senior manager of power supply and resource planning. “Trying to incorporate our demand response, managing the wind forecasts and understanding how the markets work – this was one of those experiences that will end up being very valuable for them in the future.”

What happened?

The nearly two-week February cold snap that essentially crippled the Texas power grid started up north. From approximately Feb. 8-14, Minnkota’s service area experienced some of its coldest temperatures of the stretch. As the polar vortex dropped south, both regional demand and weather-related generation issues began to rise.

Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) – the organization that manages the transmission grid and energy markets of a 15-state region that includes Minnkota’s territory – asked its providers to enter conservative operations Feb. 14-20 and declared a Maximum Generation Event on Feb. 16. Over those days, the combination of expanded regional need and less generation availability (from frozen plants, natural gas pipeline constraints and less production from wind farms across the midsection of the country) made the cost of buying energy from the grid skyrocket.

“We saw prices over $100 all hours of the day starting on Feb. 15, and it lasted four to five days,” Sailer recalled. “We might see it that high for a few hours but, typically, in the last couple of years, it’s been averaging less than $20 per megawatt-hour. So when you’re seeing prices of $200, $400, sometimes up to $900, it completely changes what you’re trying to manage.”

Minnkota had to protect itself from relying on the volatile market. Although the coal-based Young Station continued to provide electricity reliably throughout the event, wind power generation dropped due to low winds and temperatures. Minnkota’s healthy demand response program – through which members volunteer to have certain electric loads like dual-fuel heating and water heaters controlled for a reduced rate – helped Sailer’s energy marketers decrease the demand on the grid.

“Because we’re scheduling our generation resources into the market, we’re making sure we’re scheduling those resources in the right market. If the power plant’s going to be available or the wind’s going to be available, we’re making sure to schedule that properly,” Sailer explained. “With that, you identify where your exposure is in the market, or maybe identify some opportunities in the market related to our demand response program. We’re making sure we’re doing something that is beneficial to our members and maximizing the value of those resources.”

Ultimately, Minnkota came out of the cold snap with few weather-related service interruptions to its members. There were no rolling blackouts as briefly seen in neighboring grid systems, and no days-long outages as experienced in the south. Minnkota used 84 hours of dual-fuel heat control, which helped avoid high energy market costs. The electricity provided by the Young Station covered the remaining demand and added needed power into the national grid.

“Our value of reliability shined through in a moment where others were facing crisis,” said plant engineering and environmental manager Tim Hagerott, adding that the Young Station is specifically designed to operate in North Dakota’s cold-weather climate. “The majority of our equipment is housed indoors in heated buildings. We also have several systems that utilize heat trace that is covered by insulation to prevent piping and equipment from freezing.”

A different situation

In Texas’ unique energy landscape, the situation was starkly different. Many generation resource technologies, including natural gas pipelines, coal plants and wind turbines, could not perform in the once-in-a-century low temperatures. For most of the country, this would mean importing energy from a neighboring grid system operator (such as MISO). However, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is independent of those grid interconnections.

“They’re somewhat of an island when they start having problems on their system, because they’re limited in bringing in other resources from other regions,” Sailer said. “It was obviously a very extreme weather event for them, so some of their units just weren’t prepared for that cold. It wasn’t just one resource – they were nearly all impacted, which resulted in Texas being isolated.”

Additionally, hundreds of Texas power consumers who were enrolled in programs that connect them directly to wholesale power rates were burned by that week’s market volatility, receiving bills that were thousands of dollars higher than normal. Minnkota and its member cooperatives protect their member-consumers from this price fluctuation by using their own generation resources to limit market exposure.

When the polar vortex finally waned in late February, Minnkota’s energy marketers were able to return to some normalcy – regular work hours, stable market prices and infrequent demand response needs. The adrenaline may have faded, but the newcomer knowledge will stick around for the next time it’s their job to help keep power reliable and affordable.

“This is a unique job in the sense that it seems like we learn something new every day,” Fulbright said, surrounded by his fellow marketers. “And that week was tenfold.”

“It was exciting, because we hadn’t seen anything like that before,” Langemo added. “You can talk about these things in theory, but when you’re actually doing them, it’s a lot different. It was a great way to learn, when you have three other people to bounce ideas off of. That’s one thing with our group – we do function well as a team.”

By Kaylee Cusack
Minnkota Power Cooperative
 

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Osowski Earns CCD Certification

Nodak Electric Cooperative board director Cheryl Osowski recently completed coursework to earn the Credentialed Cooperative Director (CCD) certificate from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Completing this training provides Nodak Electric members with a director who has expanded knowledge in cooperative governance, fiduciary responsibilities and other essential skills. 

Osowski lives on a farmstead northeast of Voss, N.D., with her husband, Robert.

Congratulations, Cheryl, on this outstanding accomplishment!

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New Hires

Max Stromsodt joined Nodak as a seasonal apprentice journeyman lineworker in May 2020 with the Hillsboro crew and became a full-time employee with the Finley crew in January 2021. A Finley, N.D., native and Finley-Sharon High School graduate, Max went on to complete the lineworker program at Bismarck State College. In his spare time, Max enjoys hunting and fishing.


Kaden Jaeger began working with Nodak as a seasonal apprentice journeyman lineworker with the construction crew in August 2020. He was hired full-time in January 2021 with the same crew. Kaden is a Rugby, N.D., native and a Rugby High School graduate, and is a graduate of Bismarck State College. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, fishing and camping.

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Military Appreciation Month

Military Appreciation Month is a special month-long observance honoring those in and out of the United States Armed Forces. The Senate selected May as National Military Appreciation Month in 1999 to ensure the nation was given the chance to publicly show its gratitude and recognize the men and women – past and present – who serve our country.

Each year, Military Appreciation Month reminds Americans of the important role the U.S. Armed Forces have played in the history and development of our country. May was chosen because it has many individual days marked to note our military’s achievements.  We thank you, service members, for your dedication and strength in keeping our nation safe.

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Director Sigurdson Retires

Paul Sigurdson has retired after serving 30 years as one of Nodak Electric’s board of directors. He has represented District 1 since 1991. During his tenure, Paul served in various board leadership roles, including the role of chairman of both Nodak Electric’s board and Square Butte Electric Cooperative’s board. Paul, a lifelong learner, became a Credentialed Cooperative Director and completed the NRECA board leadership program.  

Over the years, Paul played an integral part in shaping policy that has helped Nodak continue to grow. Paul stated, “I have truly enjoyed my tenure on the board of directors of Nodak Electric Cooperative. I would like to graciously thank the cooperative members of District 1 for their support, as well as the incredibly talented employees at Nodak. I was afforded the opportunity to grow and learn as a director. I am grateful for the lifelong friendships made. It has been a remarkable experience to serve the Nodak Electric Cooperative.”

Paul and his wife, Ina, live on a farm near Gardar, N.D. In retirement, Paul and Ina plan to enjoy traveling to see their four daughters and their families. Paul is especially proud of his granddaughter, five grandsons and two granddaughters-in-law. 

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Keep Utility Poles Clear

Help keep our lineworkers safe!

Keeping utility poles and electrical equipment free of signs, flags and other foreign objects helps keep the community powered and our line crews safe. It may seem harmless, but nails, staples or other fasteners in utility poles present safety hazards to workers who have to climb the poles to repair or maintain the equipment. Sharp objects in the pole can lead to lineworkers snagging or piercing holes in their protective equipment, such as the rubber gloves that are meant to insulate workers from high voltage. Hanging things from utility poles also presents dangers to the community, putting individuals at risk of making accidental contact with energized power lines. Safety is our number one priority. This is a reminder to do your part by keeping utility poles clear.

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Unfamiliar Vehicle In Your Driveway?

It could be one of our contractors. 

For Nodak Electric to provide safe and reliable electricity at the most affordable cost, we use contractors to assist with tree trimming, pole testing, trenching/boring and utility box painting. Please know that employees of these contractor crews will always have vehicles labeled with Nodak Electric stickers to officially mark their affiliation with the cooperative. Members will not be approached, under any circumstances, for payment by either a representative of Nodak Electric or one of its contractors for these types of services.

If you have any questions or concerns about a contractor who has visited your property, please contact Nodak Electric at 1-800-732-4373.

Nodak has hired the following contractors:

North PlainsUtility Contracting
Trenching/plowing

RAM Utilities
Pole inspection

Rhino Contracting
Boring/trenching

Dakota Tree Service
Tree trimming

ACE Utilities
Cable locating

Joe Ritter Painting
Metal refinishing service 

AW Power
Tree trimming

These contractors are currently working in our service area. They will have a Nodak Electric decal on their vehicle. If you have any questions, please contact us at 800-732-4373.   

 

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Digging Soon?

Always Call Before You Dig

One free, easy call gets your utility lines marked and helps protect you from injury and expense. Safe digging is no accident: always call 811 before you dig.

Visit www.call811.com for more information.

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2020 In Review

EV CHARGER
Nodak installed a first-in-the-community electric vehicle (EV) fast charging station. The charger will make EV travel easier across the region.

ONLINE APPLICATIONS
A new online application process was initiated to help members start, stop or move service.

NEW INTERACTIVE WALL
Nodak’s new system allows dispatch to quickly assess an outage and dispatch crews while providing up-to-date information about the outage situation.

REBATES
Nodak offers rebates to encourage load development, load retention and wise use of energy.

OPERATION ROUND UP
Nodak and its members help the community with a variety of projects, programs and life-improving purchases.

AFTER-HOURS CALL
Nodak is using a new aft er-hours call center to help maintain continual member service.

CAPITAL CREDITS
In 2020, Nodak returned $2 million in capital credits to its members.

FIRST RESPONDERS APPRECIATION
Nodak teamed up with Minnkota Power Cooperative to deliver meals to health care workers at Altru as a thank you for their work and dedication during the pandemic.

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Message To Our Members

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.

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