CEO Talk

Paul Sukut

Opportunities on the horizon

by Paul Sukut

Basin Electric’s 56th Annual Meeting of the Membership was held Nov. 8, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it went.

This year’s Annual Meeting was different than in past years. It was held on one day as opposed to two days, as in recent years. It also incorporated panel discussions on the topics of operational excellence and supporting membership growth

The panel format included short presentations by senior vice presidents, but also featured an open microphone to allow for members and other attendees to ask questions. Members used the opportunity to learn more about the various projects and activities of the cooperative. 

Our goal throughout the Annual Meeting was to have a back-and-forth conversation with the membership. I think we achieved that, and hope you came away from the meeting feeling the same way. 

We also honored three retiring directors at the meeting – Roberta Rohrer, Gary Drost, and Don Applegate. I can’t thank them enough for their engagement and dedication to the Basin Electric family, and their decades of service to rural electric cooperatives.

Looking back on 2017, we faced our share of challenges – continued low commodity prices, fuel competition in the markets, and high retirement numbers to list a few. But on the other side of those challenges are opportunities.

We’re seeing continued member load growth to help offset low commodity prices, thanks in part to climbing crude oil prices. Coal is competing with wind energy every day in the markets, but we’re making a push for fair compensation for when we must scale back the operation of those baseload coal units. And while we’ll miss the countless contributions and institutional knowledge of those retiring employees, it creates opportunities for a new generation of employees to step up and grow in their own careers.

The reality is that it’s forcing us to take a closer look at what we can do as a cooperative to better manage costs and work more efficiently. 

We have much to be hopeful about as we turn the calendar to 2018. Commercial operation of Dakota Gasification Company’s urea production facility is set for January, part of a continuing focus on innovation and diversification at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant. Planned implementation of a revenue deferral fund would serve as an insurance policy of sorts for the membership. Continued strategic planning by the board of directors and staff will help ensure the safe and efficient operation of Basin Electric’s facilities. And we’ll continue providing input on a new carbon management rule that will allow us flexibility and time to tease the full economic life out of our facilities.

At the end of the day, our focus is on serving our membership. Every decision we make includes consideration of the member at the end of the line. 

Be safe everyone, and have a blessed Christmas.

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