Sept. 6, 2006
Sioux Falls -- East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 56th annual meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 6) at Sioux Falls Convention Center. An estimated 350 electric cooperative officials and utility industry colleagues attended the event with the theme "Cooperatives: Leading the Way."
During their annual report to members, Board President Wayne Wright and General Manager Jeff Nelson described how electric cooperatives, since their formation, have been leaders helping to improve the quality of life of rural residents, strengthen the local economy and create a brighter future.
In the first decade of the 21st century, East River and its 21 member distribution systems in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota are again leading the way in an era of tremendous activity.
The development of new agricultural processing facilities, such as ethanol plants, other industries and residential developments in cooperative service areas are contributing to unprecedented growth in the demand for electricity. In 2005, East River delivered nearly 2.3 million megawatt-hours of wholesale power to member systems– an increase of 5.5 percent, Nelson said. During the recent heat wave, East River set a new summer sales record at 396 megawatts on July 29, 2006.
East River and its members are the power behind six ethanol plants, which can produce more than 500 million gallons of the renewable fuel annually. The newest ethanol plant to receive its power supply from an East River member system is Prairie Ethanol, near Mitchell, S.D. The Millennium Ethanol Plant, under construction at Marion, S.D., has also signed a contract to receive power from the cooperative network in 2007.
Cooperatives are vigorously developing new facilities to serve these growing loads. East River’s work plans include building eight new substations, constructing more than 60 miles of new or upgraded transmission lines and other power-quality improvement projects. Cooperatives are currently helping to develop generation facilities at eight locations in the Dakotas, which will add 167 megawatts of needed baseload, peaking and renewable resources to their portfolio this year.
In addition to new construction, East River and 16 member cooperatives completed repairs this summer following the worst ice storm in East River’s history. The 2005 Thanksgiving weekend ice storm and blizzard destroyed 1200 transmission poles and impacted 700 miles of power lines, leaving 25,000 cooperative members without electric service.
"The post-Thanksgiving 2005 ice storm disrupted service to approximately one-third of our transmission system," Nelson said. "Thanks to our dedicated employees and lots of mutual aid, transmission service was restored to the final substation serving residential customers in under two weeks."
East River and its member systems expanded their economic development outreach through a coalition that received a $50 million allocation of New Markets Tax Credits, which will attract additional private investment in new projects in the region. The Rural Electric Economic Development Fund issued 15 loans for $5 million that created 420 new jobs in 2005.
In the political arena, Cooperatives lead the way by working with allied organizations on important issues, including federal power, transmission access, captive rail shipping and a host of other issues impacting electric utilities and rural communities.
"By practicing the Cooperative Principles and the four Touchstone Energy Values of Integrity, Innovation, Accountability and Commitment to Community and by following our Strategic Plan, East River will continue to meet our members’ needs for reliable power and other services at the lowest possible cost," Nelson said. "Through these strategies and our dedicated work force, East River will continue to accomplish its mission: To Enhance the Value of Our Member Systems."
Headquartered in Madison, S.D., East River is a power-supply cooperative that delivers wholesale power through a 2,600-mile transmission system to 21 member electric distribution systems. These distribution systems in turn provide retail electricity to 85,700 homes and businesses in a 36,000-square-mile service area, covering 41 counties in eastern South Dakota and nine counties in western Minnesota. East River and its member cooperatives belong to an alliance of 630 Touchstone Energy Cooperatives in 45 states, delivering energy and energy solutions with integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community.ns with integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community.