Four-Year Work Plans

Photo of Dan Carlisle

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

Here at Todd-Wadena, our crews work year-round to provide members with safe, reliable, and affordable electricity. To accomplish the wide range of projects we face in any given year, we operate on four-year work plans.

These work plans, designed in large part by our electrical engineers, help us determine what needs to get accomplished each year. Tasks such as replacing undersized transformers, identifying and replacing old poles, and building new lines are all planned out in advance. This allows us to make sure we have necessary items such as the correct amount and type of poles in inventory, cement pads poured and ready to use, and the proper hardware required by Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for each pole assembly.

According to the 2016 Load Forecast and historical patterns, TWEC anticipated extending service to 373 new residential consumer locations during 2017-2020. The service extension cost for the 2017-2020 period was estimated at $492,000. During this same four-year period, we anticipated 480 service capacity increases, with an estimated cost of $800,000.

The four-year plan we are currently operating under also outlines recommended distribution line projects. This work plan calls for the building and replacement of 45.31 miles of line due to growth on the system, adding back feed capability between substations, and replacing old lines that have reached the end of their useful life. Also planned is 1.10 miles of new tie lines to address growth on TWEC’s distribution system.

The Blueberry Substation was also included in the construction work plan period, replacing Todd-Wadena’s former Menahga Substation. This new substation improved electrical service reliability in the Menahga area. Todd-Wadena co-located the Blueberry Substation with Great River Energy’s new transmission substation.
In addition to these projects, our crews stay busy with line patrol, vegetation management, and a variety of other responsibilities around our system. We appreciate the hard work they put in to make sure our members have reliable power. Please respect our crews and help keep them safe by pulling over and giving them adequate working space.

Happy New Year!

Building Goals for TWEC

As we continue to look into the possibility of a new headquarters building for Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, we are first and foremost concerned with how to best serve our membership. This means taking time to assess both the current and future needs of our cooperative.

Just as TWEC’s Board of Directors has a responsibility to maintain and enhance the co-op’s electrical distribution system, the Board is also responsible for maintaining and enhancing the facilities that serve the membership. Both are crucial to the long-term success of Todd-Wadena.

To further pursue the possibility of a new headquarters building, Todd-Wadena is working with Contegrity Group — a construction management company based out of Little Falls, Minnesota. Architects will develop designs and specifications based on input received from TWEC. A building committee, comprised of TWEC board members, CEO Dan Carlisle, and co-op employees, will then review building plans and offer feedback to help determine the most efficient design.

Once Todd-Wadena has the blueprint and specifications fully prepared, the Cooperative will send out for bids. The goal is to utilize as many local contractors as possible. If the bids received are within our budget range, the Board will then move forward with construction on a new headquarters building.

If we move forward with a building project, one of the primary goals will be to offer members new opportunities to be involved with the Cooperative. We would have hands-on displays to learn about energy efficiency, rebates, and overall ways to interact with the Cooperative. Another goal is making sure we can conduct business in the most efficient way possible. A small conference room is being included in the design to provide a private and comfortable setting where members can meet with us. Equally important is providing a safer and more productive environment for employees and members.

As we take these important steps over the next few months, we will keep our members informed throughout the process. We appreciate your support as we plan today for the future of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative.

New Headquarters Blueprint

Highlights from 2019 — CEO Column December 2019

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

As we near the end of 2019, it is an excellent time to reflect on the past year and think about changes coming in 2020. I am pleased to report that 2019 was a very successful year for Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. To date, we have experienced zero lost time accidents and have continued to train and grow our talented group of employees.

Operationally, we were able to maintain a low outage count even with two large storms this summer and the cold winter. Crews completed 113 new services, 36 service changes, 6.5 miles of new overhead line, 2 miles of underground line, and approximately 100 pole changes.

Other highlights from the past year include:

  • Being selected as the recipient for the Indoor Food Production container research project from Great River Energy (GRE) and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
  • Receiving the Meritorious Achievement Award presented by the Minnesota Safety Council.
  • Returning capital credits to our member-owners for over 50 years. This year, the amount returned is approximately $690,000, which is the amount budgeted prior to fiscal 2019.
  • Announcing new, affordable storage and time of use rates for electric vehicles (EVs), as well as offering an EV charging rebate and the Revolt program.
  • Holding TWEC’s first EV Ride and Drive event. Over 90 members drove or rode in an electric vehicle.
  • Achieving a satisfaction score of 87 on the member survey conducted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). This score places us well above the average score (74) for a Touchstone Energy cooperative.
  • Initiating a community ambassador program. We had 11 employees volunteer for a total of 56 hours to support local organizations.

Looking forward to 2020, we are planning several new opportunities for youth. In addition to our annual Youth Tour trip to Washington, D.C., we are bringing TWEC’s existing scholarships in house and will be awarding six scholarships to graduating seniors at our Annual Meeting. A new offering next year is TWEC’s Power Up Non-Traditional Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to adults finishing or going back to school. The scholarships are made available with unclaimed capital credits.

As always, we will continue to look into new services and technology to best serve our membership during the coming year. The future is bright for Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative!

Headquarters Under Consideration

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative was incorporated in 1940 by a small but dedicated group of people committed to bringing power to our rural area and improving the lives of their friends and neighbors. By 1949, the Cooperative’s growth necessitated a move to our current headquarters building.

The original building, which was constructed in 1949, served roughly 3,000 members. With a growth in membership in 1980 to 5,600, an addition was completed to expand the office and garage. Today, TWEC includes more than 8,900 member services, just under 12,000 meters, who are served by approximately 2,250 miles of power lines. We have continued to operate out of the same facility since 1949.

As we near Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s 80th year of serving our community, the need for improvements to our facility is evident in order to take our Cooperative into the next 80 years. Our current headquarters building lacks several important features required to ensure a safe, secure, and efficient workplace.

TWEC’s Board of Directors and staff have been working together to carefully evaluate the condition of the existing building and determine the most cost-effective solution to remedy the deficiencies identified in the facility. This decision is not being taken lightly nor quickly. TWEC staff and the board of directors began this process in 2012 when they identified the future need. There has been intense study and planning with appropriate experts to evaluate TWEC’s needs and possible solutions. In addition to considering the current state of the building, they are also evaluating what TWEC will require to continue to effectively serve our community and membership well into the future.

As all buildings do over time, the building has started to deteriorate. It offers very little insulation, no ventilation, and an extremely inefficient HVAC system. The square footage of the facility is unproductive and is greater than what is needed, resulting in another inefficiency. Additionally, no solid solution has been identified for recurrent flooding issues.

After significant research and partnering with many experts, it has been decided that the configuration of TWEC’s headquarters building does not allow for a workable, affordable remodel, therefore a rebuild is under consideration. As a not-for-profit, member-owned utility, our members’ needs, concerns, and equity are always front of mind as we make any decisions related to the future of your Cooperative. We are committed to serving the needs of our local community and our membership.

For 80 years, TWEC has upheld its same mission of providing safe, reliable, and affordable power for our members. Evaluating the need for a new headquarters building is an important step in making sure we are able to continue on in our mission — serving our members effectively and efficiently for years to come.

TWEC Headquarters in 1949.

Capital Credit Checks Going Out to Members Mid-December

Members earn capital credits each year based on their patronage—the more electricity purchased, the higher the allocation of capital credits. 

Each year, the cooperative’s board of directors makes a decision on whether to retire old capital credits based on the financial health of the cooperative and provision of the by-laws. In the past 10 years, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative has retired over $4.8 million to members. 

This year, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors approved retiring $690,000 of capital credits for the years of 2003, 2004, and a portion of 2005; and for the first time since its inception, Great River Energy (GRE) will retire capital credits to Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative and thus our members. A retirement of $160,000 of capital credits will be refunded to TWEC members who had patronage for the years of 1980-1984. 

A combined capital credit refund check will be mailed out to eligible members in mid-December.

Using Portable Space Heaters Wisely

Electric space heaters can be a convenient heating supplement when used periodically to take the chill off a blustery day. However, they become increasingly ineffective for heating as the space gets larger. They can also be much more expensive to operate long-term as they are not eligible for lower, off-peak kWh pricing. 

Estimating the Cost of Running a Space Heater
We used TWEC’s Kill-A-Watt meter to figure out how many kWhs our space heater was using. Our heater used 1,500 watts on the high setting. To calculate our usage we used this formula: Watts/1,000 x Hours = kWh usage. We wanted to know the cost of usage for one hour on high and our usage came to 1.5 kWh. When multiplied by TWEC’s 11.5¢ rate per kilowatt-hour, we found it costs 17.3¢ per hour to run our heater on high. 

Now we can see what impact a space heater is having on our monthly bill. In this example, a space heater that uses 1,500 watts and operates 24 hours each day at 11.5¢ per kilowatt-hour costs $4.14 per day to operate. If you run it for 30 days, that would add $124.20 to your monthly bill! 

Using Your Space Heater Safely

  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet from flammable items such as curtains, furniture, or bedspreads.
  • Select a space heater with a guard around the heating element.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended.
  • Never go to sleep with a space heater on.
  • Never use or store flammable liquids near a space heater.
  • Always keep heaters a safe distance from water to prevent electrocution.
  • Do not use an extension cord with a space heater.
  • Do not use the heater to dry clothes.
  • Be sure the heater’s plug fits snugly in an outlet. The cord and plug may feel warm when operating since the unit draws so much power, but they should not feel hot. If they do, unplug the heater and have a qualified repair person check for problems.
  • Do not attempt to repair a broken heater yourself. It should be checked and repaired by a qualified appliance service center.

Federal and State Updates — CEO Column November 2019

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

Numerous proposals are making their way through the House and Senate in  Washington, D.C. that have the potential to impact Minnesota electric cooperatives. I have been monitoring these and other legislative actions. The following is a summary of a few of these issues.

Section 48A Tax Credits
In 2005, Congress established the Section 48A investment tax credit to support highly efficient new and existing coal-based generation technologies. This bill was modified in 2008 and the requirements to be eligible for carbon capture and sequester projects were greatly changed. Cooperatives are seeking a change to this language so as to incentivize carbon capture efforts on new and existing coal plants.

Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE)
On June 19, 2019, the EPA released its final rule to replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan. Cooperatives generally support this new ACE rule, which directs states to develop standards of performance for individual power plants by applying a prescribed list of technologies that constitute the Best System of Emission Reduction (BSER) and which also recognizes the investments cooperatives have already made in their facilities to reduce CO2 emissions.

Leech Lake Land Transfer–Role Protection
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe are pursuing a bill that would return approximately 11,760 acres of land in Cass County from the Chippewa National Forest Service back to the Leech Lake Band. This land was taken from members of the Leech Lake Band between 1948 through 1959. Cooperatives in Northern Minnesota have electric distribution lines on these lands and, on occasion, have had difficulty gaining adequate access to perform routine maintenance and vegetation management on these distribution systems. Cooperatives support the objective of this proposed legislation but seek amended language to ensure proper access to its distribution system for maintenance purposes.

In addition to the above federal actions, a multitude of state issues exist that we are monitoring.

Department of Labor and Industry–Wiring Affidavits
The State of Minnesota, though the Department of Labor and Industry, is interpreting a statute to require the payment of $36 and filing of a wiring affidavit by the cooperative when we upgrade load control receivers with new technology. This has the potential to cost Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative members $198,000 in fees to be paid to the state. The impact of this statute statewide is roughly $9 million dollars in fees for Great River Energy Cooperatives. Cooperatives, who utilize master electricians to perform these upgrades/changeouts, believe statutory exemptions exist that excuse inspection and payment of this fee. Discussions with state Department of Labor and Industry officials are ongoing, but whether or not a compromise can be reached remains to be seen.

GRE Rate Formula
There are 28 electric cooperatives that are part of the Great River Energy (GRE) family that purchase all or a fixed amount of their wholesale power from GRE. GRE, in turn, is one of 51 transmission providers that belong to the Midcontinent Independent System Operators (MISO). MISO oversees and regulates access to the electric grid and pricing for electricity from Manitoba down to Louisiana. Heat, cold, grid congestion, and other factors have an impact on the price that GRE pays for wholesale electricity from MISO. This, in turn, also impacts the formulaic price that distribution cooperatives, like Todd-Wadena, pay for electricity. There is currently discussion and much analysis being done regarding the ways the formulaic price we are paying for electricity gets calculated. Specifically, the price components related to transmission charges (fees paid, in part, to use another utility company’s wires to deliver electricity through them) are being evaluated and proposals are being developed to update and change the applicable formulas. Todd-Wadena currently has the lowest charge per kW of all 28 co-ops in the GRE family. It is possible that this may change in the future. We are actively involved in this process and remain mindful of our obligation to provide safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to our members.

The future will undoubtedly bring new, and equally important, challenges to our cooperative. We will continue to do our best to stay abreast of these issues and to communicate with our members about them.

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

Looking to the Future of Electric Vehicles

Your Board of Directors is constantly looking at ways to help bring more revenue into Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative in order to keep our rates low. One exciting, cost-saving technology that is finally gaining traction is electric vehicles (EVs). While it may take some time before we see a lot of EVs around Todd-Wadena’s service area, it is worth noting how people also thought that about electric water heaters – and look where we are now. New technology is making today’s EVs some of the safest, quietest, and fastest vehicles on the road today.

National Drive Electric Week just wrapped up with ‘Ride and Drive’ events all across the country, including an event at our very our Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative Headquarters during the Member Appreciation Breakfast. Having the privilege of serving the membership, I am constantly looking for ways to make our Co-op relevant today and into the future. Younger generations were not fortunate enough to see the lights come on, so for them the Co-op may just seem like an electric provider instead of a member investment that pays dividends and invests in the community for the future.

One of the ways we can connect with this younger generation is through electric vehicles. Being an EV driver myself, I am proving the technology is here today to make EVs not only a commuter vehicle but viable for long distance road trips too. Most of my charging is done at home, but there are new chargers coming online every day for those long road trips. If you crunch the numbers, driving an EV makes a lot of sense (or should I say dollars and cents…). According to the Idaho National Laboratory, most EVs cost between 2-4¢ per mile to drive, whereas a comparable gasoline car will cost between 11-15¢ per mile to drive.

Another benefit is that they are a lot of fun to drive. The instant torque cannot be understated and the quietness of an EV has the federal government figuring out how to make them produce more noise so people “hear” them coming. Electric vehicles are also setting the bar higher for new safety standards. One final benefit I should mention is the reduced maintenance costs. I could go on and on, so if you would like to find out more information and see if an EV is the right fit for you, give the Co-op or myself a call. You can learn more at www.pluginconnect.com.

Miles Kuschel
TWEC Board President

Business Spotlight: Omega Hardwoods

With more than 85 different sizes of pallets manufactured at its plant in Menahga, Omega Hardwoods is one of the top pallet suppliers in the upper Midwest. The company produces both light-duty and heavy-duty pallets in standard sizes, along with custom orders. This flexibility allows them to serve a large variety of industries – from printing to pet food, from aerospace to agriculture.

“One of the key things about Omega Hardwoods is that we are a KDHT [kiln dried heat treated] certified company,” says owner Lori Tomperi. “This allows our pallets to be shipped internationally.” KDHT certification means they can supply industries requiring high sanitation levels and those that ship products across international borders.

In addition to offering a large variety of pallets, Omega Hardwoods also has pallet stock and components for sale. As with the assembled pallets, the components are available in heat-treated pine, hardwoods like oak and birch, and lighter weight aspen. The company’s own trucks deliver pallets within Minnesota, with shipping partners making deliveries to locations across the Midwest.

Family-oriented Business

Omega Hardwoods currently employs 18 people and has established itself as a reliable company with over 25 years in business. “We’re really big into being a family-oriented business,” Tomperi notes. She and her husband Durwin are owners/operators, their daughter Paige Olson works as the office administrator, and son-in-law Cole Olson is the operations manager. Several other family members have also worked at the business.

“We’ve also hired a variety of families over the years,” Tomperi continues. “We’ve had husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and brothers all working here together.”

TWEC Helps Promote Efficiency

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is committed to helping local businesses succeed. The cooperative recently worked with Omega Hardwoods to determine the best rate when considering their electric usage.

“We enrolled them in our interruptible rate, which is a great rate with the ability for Todd-Wadena to control when needed,” explains Allison Uselman, member services manager at TWEC. “However, they had some equipment that could not be shut down during a control event. So, we worked with Omega Hardwoods to keep them on the interruptible rate; however, instead of full interruptible they went with a partial interruptible giving them the ability to keep certain equipment running.”

“Todd-Wadena has also helped us find ways to be more efficient with our electrical use,” Tomperi adds. “They explained the benefits of switching to LED lights and assisted us in getting rebates to help with the cost of the switch. The new lights are way more efficient and don’t put out as much heat.”

A large variety of pallet products, a dedicated workforce, and a focus on energy efficiency make Omega Hardwoods a successful local business. Their commitment to personalized service, consistent quality, and efficient delivery is recognized throughout the region.

Cybersecurity — September 2019 CEO Column

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

Security on all fronts is a top priority at Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. One of the areas I would like to focus on this month is cybersecurity.

Each October is officially designated as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. By raising awareness and implementing cybersecurity practices, we are working to combat cyber threats to protect our members, employees, and our cooperative infrastructure. As the energy sector continues to be a target for cyber attacks, I want our members to know we take our role in managing cybersecurity threats to our members’ data and our operations seriously.

To keep cybersecurity front of mind for our employees, we utilize KnowBe4 – a security awareness training program combined with simulated phishing attacks. We use this platform to train employees to learn which red flags to look for and how to keep themselves and our network protected. Topics are kept relevant, which is critically important with the nature of cyber attacks always changing. 

Social engineering is another threat we prepare for. This involves manipulating or deceiving someone in order to gain control of a computer or learn private information. The attack can come via phone, email, mail, or direct contact. We are aware of this threat and have processes in place to confirm the identity of anyone who contacts us requesting information. 

As a cooperative, we also keep our anti-virus software and firewalls updated with the latest patches and firmwares. We share cybersecurity resources and information with other co-ops to help build stronger cybersecurity programs and mitigate potential threats and vulnerabilities.

TWEC remains cyber aware through:

  • Implementing rigorous security standards and technology to protect systems
  • Forging close partnerships to protect our systems
  • Engaging in active information sharing about threats and vulnerabilities

By increasing awareness and enhancing understanding of basic cybersecurity practices, we can all work together to combat cyber threats.

Stay safe and enjoy the beautiful fall weather!