Committed to our Members

Of all the assets at Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, the group of dedicated employees whose job it is to keep the lights on and the member’s satisfied are at the top of the list.

As the new General Manager/CEO I can tell you from experience that the employees work together for you.  It could be answering the phone to restore service following a storm, helping a member with a new service installation or heating options, explaining new technologies or legislation affecting utilities, working in the worst possible weather to restore your electric service, or helping with billing questions.  Each and every one of the employees is committed to the safe, reliable delivery of electricity and services to our cooperative members.

More and more articles about our industry are being written by “authorities” that write how our system is broken, archaic, dumb and inefficient.

I recently read an editorial by a Sr. Vice-President of Transmission and Distribution for a cooperative that articulated some thoughts I have about the electric utility industry.  The editorial title was “Let’s be clear about this, the system is not broken or dumb”.

“You rarely read how many times people have to do a “ctrl-alt-del” on their computer, or reboot their router.  How often does anyone walk into their home and have to flip the light switch two or three times before the lights work?  How often do they have to eat by candlelight?”  (Some of you might think pretty often when the wind howls and trees fall.)

I support conservation of energy, finding new ways to generate electricity, and reducing greenhouse gases.  It comes with a price though and it’s very frustrating  when many of the policies and mandates are something we have little say in.  Costs are rising…it’s a given.  Why they are rising is a little more obscure.

Although there are many reasons for rising costs, like EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, increased mining costs for coal, the Minnesota conservation improvement program, a recession, low growth and demand.  An example I’ll share is the renewable energy standard in Minnesota that requires that 15% of our electricity come from renewable energy by 2015 and 25% come from renewable energy by 2025.

Today, about 17% of GRE purchases come from a renewable service, most of which comes from wind.  GRE purchases wind power through contracts to private wind farm developers.  Wind developers need a guaranteed income to remain profitable.  Wind purchases today cost an average of $40.00 per KW.  This “energy”, along with GRE’s other energy from traditional sources is sold to an independent system operator (ISO).  The ISO establishes the price per KW for all utilities in the region.  Today that price is around $23.00 per KW.  Wind energy is being sold for a loss of $17.00 per KW in today’s market.

The industry is changing at lightning speed and some of the outcomes are at odds with the basic concept of delivering safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to each and every one of our members.

There is little doubt everyone wants to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gasses.  What remains to be seen however, is if legislators and lobbyists can do so without making electricity a luxury for only those who can afford it.

I am humbled by the trust and faith the board of directors has given me and look forward to the challenges that have been entrusted to me on your behalf.  I am also confident in the employee’s abilities to live up to our mission of “providing quality utility services in a reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally safe manner.”

May you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Jeanne Muntean

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