Connected Home Research Project Launches during Dakota State University’s MadLabs Facility Grand Opening

Connected Home Research Project Launches during Dakota State University’s MadLabs Facility Grand Opening

A Connected Home Research Project launched on Wednesday as part of Dakota State University’s (DSU) MadLabs facility grand opening. The Connected Home project is a partnership between East River Electric Power Cooperative, DSU and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and is exploring technologies that will be included in the next generation rural home. It is also working to find solutions that will allow electric cooperatives to play an integral role in helping consumers optimize their energy use.

East River Electric is a wholesale power supply cooperative headquartered in Madison which serves 24 distribution cooperatives and one municipal electric system across eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. NRECA is a national association of over 900 electric cooperatives and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

“From wi-fi thermostats to smart appliances, our network of electric cooperatives is seeing increased adoption of smart home technologies among consumers,” said East River Chief Member and Public Relations Officer Chris Studer. “While current technologies can help manage electricity usage and benefit consumers, we noticed a gap between the capabilities of those technologies and the needs of our utility network to connect to those technologies. We hope to close that gap through this project.”

Researchers will investigate current products on the market and determine how utilities could potentially utilize existing technologies to control appliances and connected technologies within a home. They will also research the potential to build utility-specific technologies, both hardware and software, that could be used in homes to optimize energy usage and control power costs. A final phase of the project could include field testing of potential products in end consumer homes to determine the viability of any hardware and software that is developed.

“As use of smart home technology continues to increase among consumers, we’re hoping to use this research project to identify technologies that will help us in our transition to a new energy management future or to develop our own utility-specific technologies that can be replicated at cooperatives around the country to help consumers optimize energy usage and save them money,” said Studer.

The project’s research space resembles a smart home kitchen with additional appliances including a washer, dryer and water heater. “Many of the products included in the space were sourced from local companies. We are grateful to Rosebud Cabinets, KolorWorks, Karl’s Appliance and Montgomery’s for assisting in the construction and design of the space,” said Studer.

Eminent Service Award Winners Announced

Eminent Service Award Winners Announced

The Eminent Service Award is East River Electric Power Cooperative’s highest honor and is given annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to East River and the cooperative movement. The awards were presented during East River’s Annual Meeting in September.

Jim Edwards retired as Chief Operations Officer from East River Electric in 2019, after 20 years of service to East River Electric and its members. He provided a significant leadership role as the cooperative went through many transitions, adopted new technologies and experienced growth. “Jim was a key player in East River planning for and joining the Southwest Power Pool. His planning expertise was utilized as East River prepared for system growth throughout the years,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “For these and his many other contributions to East River and our member systems, we recognize Jim for his dedication and friendship with our highest honor.”

Greg Hollister retired as East River’s Chief Financial Officer after a combined 40 years of service in the cooperative family, with 20 of those years being at East River. Greg dedicated his career to making sure co-op members at the end of the line have affordable and reliable electricity. “We offer our sincere thanks and appreciation for your leadership role in overseeing the Indenture and other strategic financial functions at East River,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko.

Kermit Pearson receives 30-Year Service Award from East River Electric Power Cooperative

Kermit Pearson receives 30-Year Service Award from East River Electric Power Cooperative

East River Electric Board Director Kermit Pearson was presented with East River Electric Power Cooperative’s 30-year service award during the organization’s 69th annual meeting Sept. 4, 2019, in Sioux Falls. The award was presented to Pearson in recognition of the 30 years that he has served on the cooperative’s board of directors.

As a member-owner of Lake Region Electric Association, Pearson serves as Lake Region’s representative on the East River board of directors and has served on the local Lake Region Electric board for 39 years. He also currently serves as Lake Region’s board president.

“We have the distinct pleasure of honoring Kermit, one of our longest serving board members, with this 30-year service award. During Kermit’s tenure on East River’s board, our cooperative family has experienced immense load growth, has developed innovative programs and has maintained our legacy of providing safe, affordable and reliable electricity,” said East River Board President Jim Ryken. “East River offers its sincere thanks and appreciation for Kermit’s continued leadership within our cooperative family.”

Kermit is a graduate of Britton High School and attended South Dakota State University in Brookings. He serves as vice president on the Basin Electric board of directors, and as treasurer for the Dakota Gasification Company board. Kermit has also represented Basin Electric on the South Dakota Rural Electric Association board of directors since 2013. In September 2018, Kermit was inducted into the South Dakota Co-op Hall of Fame. Kermit and his wife Peggy have four children.

Electric Cooperatives and CoBank Donate $47,500 to State Veterans Cemetery

Electric Cooperatives and CoBank Donate $47,500 to State Veterans Cemetery

East River Electric Power Cooperative, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Rushmore Electric, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and CoBank are donating $47,500 to the South Dakota Veterans Council for the State Veterans Cemetery currently under construction in Sioux Falls. The donation was announced at a lunch ceremony during East River Electric’s annual meeting. Ken Teunissen, chair of the Endowment Committee and State Representative Larry Zikmund, R-Sioux Falls, attended the luncheon to receive the check.

“We are pleased to be able to provide this donation for the State Veterans Cemetery,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “South Dakota’s veterans have given a lot for our state and our country and our state’s electric cooperatives want to do what we can to give back to them.”

In 2018, the South Dakota Legislature authorized the state to seek construction funding from the National Cemetery Administration. Of the 72,000 veterans in South Dakota, 50,000 of them live in the eastern part of the state. The nearest national veterans cemeteries are currently in Sturgis or Fort Snelling, Minn. The cemetery will be constructed on approximately 12.9 acres north of the Interstate 229 and Interstate 90 interchange off Slip Up Creek Road and 477th Avenue.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the cemetery on Monday, Sept. 9. More than 100 people attended the ceremony.

East River Electric Power Cooperative Holds 69th Annual Meeting

East River Electric Power Cooperative Holds 69th Annual Meeting

East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 69th annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. The theme of this year’s annual meeting was ‘Shaping a Stronger Tomorrow’. The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River is working together with its member systems on shaping a stronger tomorrow for the electric cooperative industry as well as to continue delivering on the cooperative network’s strong history of providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

During the morning general session, speakers highlighted East River’s increasing efforts to support regional economic development. A new $10 million workforce housing development financing partnership between Avera Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund aims to address increasing concerns regarding a lack of adequate workforce housing across the region. The REED Fund is a nonprofit corporation that is governed by 26 member electric cooperatives. REED partners with commercial and other economic development lenders to provide financing and leverage private investment in more than 69 counties throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. Funds from the partnership will be used for lending in partnership with banks and other agencies to provide loans for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities.

“All business sectors including health care and electric cooperatives in rural areas are looking for highly-skilled staff,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “It can be a real challenge to recruit workforce without quality housing options. We’re going to work on solving this critical issue.”

The cooperative’s leaders also updated attendees on East River’s aggressive 10-year transmission system upgrade plan that began at the start of this year. The plan will update aging infrastructure, maintain the cooperative system’s strong reliability and allow the co-op network to accommodate continued load growth.

“East River exists to enhance the value of its members and we are committed to focus on that mission every day,” said Boyko. “East River was formed by the determination and collective effort of our member systems. The great working relationships between East River and our member systems will enable us to shape an even stronger tomorrow.”

During the meeting’s lunch, East River’s leadership presented two individuals with the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s Board of Directors. The award recipients were East River Electric’s Former Chief Operations Officer Jim Edwards as well as East River Electric’s Former Chief Financial Officer Greg Hollister. The lunch ceremony also included a check presentation to announce a donation of $47,500 from East River Electric, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Rushmore Electric, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and CoBank to the South Dakota Veterans Council for the proposed State Veterans Cemetery in Sioux Falls.

The afternoon session began with an update from Basin Electric Power Cooperative. A business meeting followed the panel discussion where the director election was held and the cooperative’s policy statements were adopted.

Avera Health and Rural Electric Economic Development Fund Announce Workforce Housing Development Financing Partnership

Avera Health and Rural Electric Economic Development Fund Announce Workforce Housing Development Financing Partnership

Avera Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund Tuesday announced a new $10 million workforce housing development financing partnership. Avera has committed $2 million to the partnership and REED has committed an initial $4 million, with plans to grow the total fund to $10 million. The partnership was announced at a joint press conference on September 3.

“Avera is pleased to partner with the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund with this $2 million investment in workforce housing,” said Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton. “Avera is committed to our rural roots and the communities we serve. Workforce housing has become a growing concern in rural South Dakota over the past several years and we’re happy REED is addressing this issue”

The REED Fund is a nonprofit corporation created and operated by electric cooperatives that partners with commercial and other economic development lenders to provide financing and leverage private investment in more than 69 counties throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. Established in 1997, REED is governed by 26 member electric cooperatives and assists projects that promote community well-being and contribute to employment, business and wealth creation, as well as improve the infrastructure, services and economic base.

“REED’s member electric cooperatives are excited to launch this housing development partnership with Avera Health,” said REED Board President Ken Schlimgen. “We want to assist communities in developing housing that meets the needs of today’s workforce. A partnership with Avera will help this region begin to address the urgent need for quality workforce housing.”

Funds from the partnership will be used for lending in partnership with banks and other agencies to provide loans for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities. Communities and developers can contact the REED Fund for more information on the application process.

“All business sectors including health care and electric cooperatives in rural areas are looking for highly-skilled staff,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “It can be a real challenge to recruit workforce without quality housing options. We’re going to work on solving this critical issue.”

Avera Health Chief Human Resources Officer Kim Jensen, agreed, saying, “Recruiting and maintaining talent throughout the Avera Health organization can be a challenge at times due to the rural nature of our footprint. When we start getting into smaller, rural communities it is imperative that there is quality housing that is affordable for prospective employees.”

Since it was established, REED has invested more than $100 million dollars in the region through more than 338 loans. The REED Fund and partner lenders have combined to distribute more than $858 million dollars in economic investment, 9,400 jobs have been impacted, and 2.3 million square feet of facilities have been constructed or renovated.

Photo: Central Electric General Manager Ken Schlimgen, Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton, and East River Electric CEO/General Manager Tom Boyko

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