CEO Talk

Paul Sukut

Difficult decisions will lead to stronger Basin Electric

by Paul Sukut

I write this with a mix of emotions.

First, it’s with a heavy heart that I announced the recent personnel decisions that had to be made at Basin Electric. I don’t take these decisions lightly. 

I’ve often said, employees are the most precious asset we have. They operate the power plants, complete the billing paperwork, maintain our infrastructure, provide services to members, and much, much more. The function Basin Electric serves could not be completed without the dedication and exceptional quality of our employees. 

At the same time, employment at the cooperative serves as peoples’ livelihoods. It supports their families, homes, lifestyles, hobbies, and overall well-being. I appreciate the time and energy each employee devotes to our important work.

I think back to my start at Basin Electric several decades ago. I was green. I grew up surrounded by cooperatives, but didn’t fully understand what a co-op was until I was hired at Basin Electric. I quickly learned that the people who choose to work under this business model value cooperation over competition. They’re smart and committed people who work to serve our members and won’t back down from a challenge.

The challenges our employees and membership face today is daunting. For Dakota Gas, improved fracking techniques have made natural gas abundant and cheap. For Basin Electric’s coal-based generation, the increase of wind energy and cheap natural gas prices are pushing coal out of the market. Our members are also feeling a great deal of competitive rate pressure at the local level, furthering the need for us to contain costs.

We’ve been implementing austerity measures the last year and a half, but the latest financial forecasts are showing more must be done. In addition to tough personnel decisions, we also formed a special team to review some of our critical Dakota Gas, Dakota Coal, and Basin Electric operations in detail.

I know it’s of little comfort to many, but all businesses go through up and down cycles. It’s how we navigate these cycles that preserves the long-term health of the cooperative.
Our members have entrusted us with their assets. It’s our charge to operate those assets in the most economic manner and deliver energy at the lowest possible cost. Sometimes that dictates having to make difficult decisions that impact employees’ lives.

This year’s annual meeting theme is United to Serve. If we stick together, among employees and the membership, we will come out the other side of this more efficient, while remaining reliable and safe. At the end of the day, we will be better stewards of the members’ assets.

I’m optimistic about the future. We will persevere and come through this challenge a stronger team. Looking forward, I see a better and stronger Basin Electric on the horizon.

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