CEO Talk

Paul Sukut

Employees make the place work

by Paul Sukut

When tour guests step off the bus at our facilities, they usually don’t know what they’re in for. 

They know they will tour a power plant, or gasification plant, or coal mine, but have they ever imagined the mechanics that make these facilities work?

The answer is found when you talk to them on the way home.

“We take it for granted, when we turn on the light switch, and there is electricity there. … You flip a switch, and things just work. That’s incredible.”

“Blown away by the size and scale of the facility.”

“It gave me a great appreciation of our electric cooperatives and how they work together.”

Many of our distribution cooperative members give their end-use consumers the opportunity to tour our facilities each summer to see what it takes to generate electricity in person. They get to stand beneath the coal pulverizers, peer into the flaming hot boiler, and stand on the top floor of a power plant to see more than 40 miles in all directions.
The machinery of a generation and transmission cooperative like Basin Electric is impressive, especially because in our case, the Great Plains Synfuels Plant is part of the package.

It’s one of only two like it in the entire world.

But the people who operate and maintain all those turbines, switchyards, scrubbers, and more, are a marvel in their own right.

One of the South Dakota lawmakers who toured our facilities in June said, “These people are sincere, you can tell they love their jobs. You can tell people are really, really proud of the good work being done here.”

At Basin Electric, our dedicated and engaged employees are more important than any other piece of our infrastructure. I spent some time visiting each of our facilities over the past month, and it’s clear to me our employees run these facilities as though they are their own. They challenge themselves and one another to find new ways to get their jobs done. They are very interested in what they can do to help make Basin Electric the best it can be for its membership.

Because we now bid our power into the market, there is a lot of pressure on our facilities to operate as cheaply as they can. And it’s not just electricity that is facing steep pricing challenges. Our natural gas, fertilizers, and other products at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant continue to see low prices, too.

We had good discussions while I was at our facilities, about how we work every day toward our goal of keeping our rates low while also keeping the light switch reliable. I spent my time with our employees working to impress upon them that we are as healthy now as we’ve ever been in Basin Electric’s history

We have a bright future, not because of any one type of fuel or piece of technology, but because our employees are savvy and work hard. I appreciate that, and the board appreciates that. Our employees are able to take the challenges we give them and meet them – whether that’s competing in an energy trading market, finding new ways to operate equipment to keep costs low, or communicating in a quickly changing world.

The members, lawmakers, and others who get to tour our facilities see it just as clearly as I do – our employees make a strong, passionate, and proud team. And as long as people want to see how we do the work we do, we will show them.

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