Concern for Community

By Marie Katterhagen

Cooperatives are based on seven guiding principles. The seventh principle is Concern for Community, defined as contributing to the sustainable development of our community. At Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC), this is evident at many levels. A primary example is Operation Round Up, where members choose to have their electric bills rounded up to the nearest dollar and the money is distributed by a Trust Board to support local community projects and organizations. TWEC is also active with its own Economic Development program, in addition to supporting other local programs to help give opportunity for development in our territory.

Concern for Community comes in all forms of volunteering and helping our neighbors near and far. Personally, last January I completed my ninth surgical mission trip to the mountainous regions of Guatemala to provide medical care to indigenous people who have no access to medical care.

It takes two days to travel to the abandoned facility where we set up our surgical area, with three to four surgeries going on in one room. All the tables, sterilizers, instruments, and beds are trucked up with us. People are lined up on the roads for days hoping for a chance to get themselves or their families needed medical care and greet us as we arrive!

During our five days at the facility, we touch the lives of close to 2,000 medically through surgery, dental, and medical clinic teams. The dental and medical teams also go out into the villages and set up clinics. We complete approximately 130+ surgeries during this time. It is humbling to assist with routine cases, taken for granted in the U.S., that are lifesaving procedures in Guatemala. Patients sit in a “waiting room” in the hallway knowing they may be there from morning to night waiting their turn, yet they don’t complain and only show gratitude. It is heart wrenching to watch them enter the operating room and pray to their God and over our hands; and then put their trust in foreigners. We are blessed to live in a country where there is easy access to medical care.

We also have a stove team that installs self-contained wood stoves with chimneys. These replace the open pit fires many Guatemalans have in their homes. They help reduce burns, especially to the children. The stoves also reduce carbon exposure in the homes, which helps improve life expectancy. In Guatemala, it is common to spend much of the day gathering wood. Approximately 120 stoves are installed each trip, reducing the amount of wood needed by 60 percent. Our stove teams are the proudest when they can say they created carbon-free homes and a smoke-free village in our world.

As a member of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, the seventh cooperative principle applies to all of us. Concern for Community is evident in how our TWEC directors and staff are actively involved in the betterment of our community. Opportunities to serve are everywhere and the rewards are endless. I would encourage you to always be open to the opportunities in front of you.

For more information on Guatemala, visit www.helpsintl.org.

Coal Creek Closure // CEO Column June 2020

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s wholesale power provider, Great River Energy (GRE), recently announced plans to transform its portfolio of power supply resources in the coming years. One element of this includes the retirement of the 1,151-megawatt Coal Creek Station power plant in the second half of 2022.

As part of the plan to increase economic efficiencies, GRE plans to phase out remaining coal resources, add significant renewable energy, and explore critical grid-scale battery technology. Each of these steps is an important part of GRE’s plan to significantly reduce member-owner wholesale power costs, while taking advantage of cost-competitive renewables and reliable access to market energy.

Although the decision to close Coal Creek Station will have a dramatic impact on the North Dakota communities that rely upon it for employment and economic benefits, the decision ultimately came down to what was in the long-term best interest of GRE’s member-owner cooperatives such as Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. To continue to pay for the plant’s losses each year, when there was a practical alternative available, ultimately led to the decision to close Coal Creek.

Despite what you might read or hear from some news sources, GRE did put a lot of thought into this decision and has made every effort to be transparent, honest, and fair with the communities in North Dakota that are affected the most. This includes voluntarily making payments to these communities for several years after the plant closes, to relieve some of the immediate impact of lost tax revenue.

Great River Energy’s portfolio changes will significantly reduce its power supply costs. The new power supply plan takes into consideration affordability, reliability, and environmental stewardship – three necessary components to ensure GRE’s member-owner electric cooperatives, like Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, are well positioned for the future.

 

Emergency Energy-Assistance Funds Are Available

Emergency energy-assistance funds are available. You must apply by July 1, 2020 and it’s first come first served. Call your local agency to see the program details.

Energy Assistance, by county:
Becker, Hubbard, Otter Tail & Wadena
(Mahube OTWA)
218-847-1385 or 888-458-1385 (Detroit Lakes)
218-739-3011 (Fergus Falls)
218-632-3600 (Wadena)
218-732-7204 (Park Rapids)

Cass (Bi-Cap)
218-547-3438 or 800-332-7135 (Walker)
218-751-4631 or 800-332-7161 (Bemidji)
 
Douglas (West Central Communities Action)
218-685-4486 or 800-492-4805
                      
Morrison (Tri-County)
320-251-1612 or 888-765-5597 
              
Todd
320-732-4516 or 888-838-4066

We’ve Pumped Up Our Rebates!

Air Source Heat Pump Promotions runs May 1, 2020-July 31, 2020

Ducted ASHP                                 2020 Promotion (May 1- July 31, 2020)

Required HSPF Level > 8.2               $1,000

Required HSPF Level > 9.0               $2,000

*Ducted ASHP must be installed by a quality installer. *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ductless ASHP                             2020 Promotion (May 1- July 31, 2020)

Delivered fuel* > 9.0 HSPF             $450

Electric heat** > 9.0 HSPF               $750

*Member’s main heat source is fuel oil, propane, or natural gas.

 **Member’s main heat source is electric.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat Pumps may be the most efficient heating AND cooling systems available. That’s because they take the heat energy that is present in the air or in the earth and simply move it indoors. In the summer, they work in reverse, moving the warm air out of your home, keeping it cool and comfortable all summer long.

Air source heat pumps work by  transferring heat from outdoor air into you home. They are up to 300 percent efficient down to an outdoor air temperature of 26 degrees Fahrenheit, offering an alternative for your spring and fall heating.

For more information on rebates, contact the office at 218-631-3120 or 800-321-8932.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative to Construct New Headquarters

Wadena, MN, April 9, 2020- Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC) Board of Directors unanimously voted to construct a new headquarters building at their Board Meeting on March 26th, 2020. The Cooperative has operated from its current facility since it was constructed in 1949, with an office addition built in the 1980s.

The decision comes in response to intense study and planning with appropriate experts to evaluate TWEC’s needs and possible solutions to determine the state of the building, which has served the Cooperative for 71 years. The evaluation examined the building’s structure, sustainability, building needs, building inefficiencies and recurrent flooding issues.

The current facility offers little insulation, no ventilation, and an inefficient HVAC system. The square footage of the facility is inefficient for office workflow. “As our current headquarters have served us well for the last 71 years, the Board realizes it is cost prohibitive to carry us for the next 71 years,” said Miles Kuschel, TWEC Board Chair.

The Board of Directors are working with Contegrity Group- a construction management company based out of Little Falls, MN. The architects have developed designs and specifications based on input from TWEC. The final bids selected came to a total price just over $2.7M, which was just below the Cooperative’s estimated $3M project cost. The project will not affect members’ rates.

“This decision has been given a vast amount of thought and due process over the years while taking into consideration the needs of our members and staff,” said Kuschel.

The new headquarters will boast hands-on displays for members to learn about energy efficiency, rebates, and overall ways to interact with the Cooperative. A small conference room will also be available in a private and comfortable setting where members can meet with TWEC staff.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC) is a not-for profit distribution cooperative that is owned and controlled by the members they serve. TWEC is located in Wadena, has 8,900 member services in place with approximately 2,250 miles of line. TWEC’s service territory includes a majority of the rural areas of Todd and Wadena counties along with portions of Becker, Cass, Douglas, Hubbard, Ottertail and Morrison counties.

COVID-19 Update

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative COVID-19 Response

March 17, 2020- The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a Global Pandemic by the World Heath Organization. The President of the United States and Minnesota’s Governor have declared a state of emergency.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative’s office will be closed to the public effective March 18th until further notice. We will not allow access to the general public, vendors or unauthorized personnel, to ensure that we keep our employees and members healthy and safe. Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is proactively taking steps to protect employees’ health and safety to preserve our ability to maintain essential services to our members.

“TWEC is committed to deliver safe, reliable, and affordable electric service to our members, and we need our employees to be healthy and safe to do so,” said Dan Carlisle, President/CEO of Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative.

Line workers will continue to respond to power outages as they arise. If a home visit is required for a TWEC employee, a few additional questions may be asked prior to their visit. “Please be patient with our crews as they perform their duties. These extra precautions are being made for the safety of members and employees,” said Carlisle.

For members who typically make your payments in person, please utilize the drop box located in front of our office. Members can also make a payment by phone through the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) line at 877-999-3398. Additional payment options include by mail, or online through SmartHub.

Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC) is a not-for profit distribution cooperative that is owned and controlled by the members they serve. TWEC is located in Wadena, has 8,900 member services in place with approximately 2,250 miles of line. TWEC’s service territory includes a majority of the rural areas of Todd and Wadena counties along with portions of Becker, Cass, Douglas, Hubbard, Ottertail and Morrison counties.

 

 

A Historical Perspective // CEO Column March 2020

Since Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative was formed in 1940, there have been many changes. Our first substation was energized in 1941 with a capacity of 450 kilowatts, serving 170 members. At this time, the TWEC headquarters was on Jefferson Street in Wadena. Growth required TWEC to build a new facility in 1949 when we moved to the location we reside in now. An addition to the office was built in 1980 as we grew to 5,600 members.

Today, TWEC serves over 8,900 member services and maintains approximately 2,250 miles of power lines. We operate 14 substations and our system peak demand was 47.9 megawatts in 2019.

Power Supply

Beginning in 1940, TWEC purchased its power from MN Power & Light Company. In 1965, TWEC changed from MN Power & Light Company to Cooperative Power for its power needs. In the year 2000, Cooperative Power became Great River Energy–whom we still receive the majority of our power from today.

Value

Throughout the years, GRE and TWEC have focused on making energy a great value for our members. The cost of powering your home has risen at a much slower pace compared to rent/mortgages, cable TV, or even education. Despite many successful efficiency upgrades, the average household needs more power to operate electronics every year. With electricity being both affordable and abundant, it can be easy to take it for granted. Despite increased use and value in our daily lives, you can see in this graph how the cost of electricity has remained relatively flat.

In May 1944, the average electricity bill was $5.07. When you figure in inflation, the equivalent would be an average bill of $73.65 today. While that may seem low compared to your average 2019 bill, there are other factors to consider. Back in 1944, the average consumption was 93 kWh. Today, average consumption is more than 1,400 kWhs per month. This means our members use 15 times more electricity at only two times the cost compared to 1944. That is affordable electricity!

As you can see, there have been many changes in the past and there will be many in the future. However, through all the change there is a constant: Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative. We will always be here to be of great value to our members and to responsibly provide safe, reliable, and affordable utility services.

A Look at Headquarters Building Financials

This process began in 2012 when the TWEC staff and Board of Directors began evaluating the future need for a new headquarters building. There has been extensive study and planning with many experts and consultants. Two of the experts were Ringdahl Architects and Contegrity Group – Construction Management that worked with staff and the Board to provide estimates to remodel or to rebuild. The cost estimate to remodel was approximately $2.9M. The proposal to rebuild is approximately $3M. The estimate to rebuild is to be done in phases at our current location. There are many cost savings and practicalities to rebuilding in the same location such as existing infrastructure, the location within our service territory, the ability for quick line crew response times, and the economics of already owning the land.

As can be seen from the graph to the right, the costs to rebuild and remodel are very close. However, the life of a new building would be significantly longer than that of a remodel. By rebuilding, we would ensure the quality of the building to serve TWEC members for over 50 years to come, versus needing additional remodeling in as little as 25 years. A breakdown of the costs over the lifetime of the building shows that rebuilding makes economic sense.

Potential New HQ Finances

The analysis has also consisted of a narrowly focused strategic planning session conducted by a financial planning expert from National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC). Since that planning session, staff and the Board have been preparing financially as to how we would best pay for a potential new headquarters.

There are many positive financial factors that allow TWEC to fund the new HQ if it is approved.

Over the past several years, long-term interest rates have fallen and remained low. TWEC refinanced long-term debt that was repricing every few years to long-term fixed debt at low long-term interest rates.

Cash has been saved and invested to earn interest income, adding to non-operating margins that have contributed to our growth in equity. Our equity is currently in a good place at 45.10 percent. As you can see in the following chart, this has been growing since 2010. These investments have earned us interest—not only growing our equity but also creating a savings plan for projects such as unexpected storm work, distribution plant construction, or the new headquarters. 

Great River Energy (GRE), our wholesale power supplier, has managed their rates for the past few years to provide rate stability. GRE is forecasting the same stability in the foreseeable future.

TWEC has worked very hard to manage costs through staffing levels, maintenance programs, and the replacement of assets.

As a result of these factors, TWEC is in a position to pay for a new building without taking out a new loan. We are a not-for-profit, member-owned utility and our members’ needs, concerns, and equity are always front of mind with every decision we make. We are committed to serving our members effectively and efficiently for years to come.

A TWEC Board Member’s Perspective // Tom Brichacek February 2020

Headquarters Building

Tom Brichacek TWEC Board Vice Chair

Tom Brichacek
TWEC Board Vice Chair

When I was elected to the Board of Directors in 2012, my first meeting there was a presentation on the needs of our headquarters building. In the presentation, there were multiple deficiencies with our current building that were brought up. After that presentation, a building committee was formed to look into possible solutions for the issues.

Throughout 2012 and 2013, we researched, received bids, and evaluated the use of our members’ money versus the gains to the building. The committee came to the conclusion that putting that much money remodeling a 1940s building didn’t make economic sense.

Moving into 2014, we researched the cost of a new headquarters building and it was concluded that building new versus remodeling made more long-term sense. But the Board felt there were other more pressing items that needed our funds, so we shelved the project at that point.

This year, with no substations being built and no major construction projects on the docket the board felt we were in a good position to bring the headquarters project back up again. We reviewed the past documents and plans and came to the same conclusion we did in 2014, that a remodel wasn’t the best use of our members’ money. We are currently working on updating the plans that were drawn in 2014 to reflect our current needs, and then we will send those plans out for contractor bids.

Our CFO has been working on the funding sources we will need to complete the project. The Board feels strongly that raising our members’ electric rates cannot and will not be a component of the funding for the building. We have also increased the deprecation of the existing building, so there will not be any remaining equity when the time comes to remove it. Once we receive the bids back, we will review the bids to determine the cost for a new building. We will then make the final decision to move forward or not. Rest assured, we are working hard to ensure we are doing what is best for our membership.

 

Legislation

An important component of being on the Board of Directors at Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative is keeping up with the bills being proposed in the State and Federal Legislature. Some of the proposed bills would have an impact on the way cooperatives do business, or affect the cost of providing electric service to our members. As directors, we meet with our legislators to lend our point of view to the bills and their impact on our member-owners.

One example of our work on your behalf happened last year. There was an unintended consequence of the 2017 tax reform law that was passed that would have threatened cooperatives’ tax exempt status if we accepted grants or federal disaster relief funds. Last September, TWEC CEO Dan Carlisle and I traveled to Washington, D.C. with other electric cooperative directors and CEOs from across the state to meet with our elected Representatives and Senators to discuss the impact of this law on our local cooperatives. We made real progress with all of the Minnesota legislators (except Representative Omar) signing onto or co-sponsoring the RURAL act to fix this issue. It was signed into law by President Trump in mid-December, saving cooperatives and, in turn, their members, across the nation from suffering the effects of the varied tax implications.

Your elected Board of Directors works with the employees of the Cooperative to ensure safe, reliable and affordable power reaches your homes.

Tom Brichacek
TWEC Board Vice Chair

Load Management // CEO Column February 2020

Photo of Dan Carlisle

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO

We are always looking for ways to help our members save energy and money. Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative uses programs and incentives to promote the use of electricity during off-peak hours—when it costs less. We do this through a process called load management.

Load management refers to a system that matches electricity supply with demand. Think of the electrical grid as a highway with rush hours at certain times (such as hot summer afternoons) when power supplies are stretched to their capacity. These periods of high demand cause spikes in power costs. Load management allows us to adjust participating members’ usage patterns to a different time, reducing the strain on an overloaded system.

Our power supplier, Great River Energy (GRE), determines when a control event will take place. By monitoring conditions over their entire system, as well as the price of electricity on the energy market, they control the load when it is most beneficial to members. GRE is able to purchase off-peak energy at a lower cost, generating savings which TWEC, in turn, can pass on to our members.

TWEC has load management programs for irrigation, dual fuel, water heaters, and commercial/industrial accounts that enroll. Control is managed with demand response units installed at members’ locations. These units listen for commands and control when needed. Currently we use radio frequency (RF) demand response units, which means the commands to control the system are sent via a radio frequency. This method has issues as commands are sometimes not received due to largely forested areas, remote fields, or weather conditions. A newer method for sending commands is now available via power line carrier (PLC) demand response units. Here the commands travel through the power line, just like electricity, so the error percentage is significantly decreased.

In 2020, TWEC will be conducting a pilot program installing 100 PLC units, which will utilize this new and improved technology. If everything goes as planned, in 2021, we will roll out a full change out of all receivers – over 5,000 units. With a lower error rate, we can increase savings during times of high demand for electricity. These savings are then passed on to our members.

Daniel Carlisle
President/CEO