Measuring the value of cooperative membership

Each of Basin Electric’s 140 members spanning nine states joined the cooperative for a different reason. For some, it’s the value of transmission and delivery. For others, it’s the investments in power and infrastructure to ensure cost-effective, reliable service for generations. 

We talked with two members – Corn Belt Power Cooperative and Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative – to hear firsthand why they find it valuable to be a member of Basin Electric.

Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative
Headquartered in Huntley, Montana, Yellowstone Valley Electric serves 21,000 meters. They receive 83-84% of their power supply from Basin Electric.

Yellowstone Valley Electric was a Basin Electric member up until the early 2000s and then rejoined the co-op in 2013. Brandon Wittman, Yellowstone Valley CEO and general manager, says they learned a lot during their time away from Basin Electric, and are happy to be back with the co-op again.

“It’s a volatile world out there. Basin has a long-standing history and a tremendous amount of assets, and they’ve managed those assets well. So I would say stability is a huge benefit of Basin Electric,” Wittman says. 

Corn Belt Power Cooperative
Located in Humbolt, Iowa, Corn Belt Power joined Basin Electric more than a decade ago. At the time, they had been in a joint dispatch for many years, and that dispatch decided to join Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). 

“We had a choice to join MISO or become a Basin member. Looking at the considerations, we felt Basin was the better option – mostly looking at scope and scale,” says Ken Kuyper, executive vice president and general manager of Corn Belt Power. “Basin is a part of an RTO [regional transmission organization], and size has a lot of advantages in an RTO market. We saw value in being associated with a cooperative instead of an RTO directly.”

Long-term perspective
Large generating assets require large capital commitments, which in turn require financing. Having long-term member contracts allows for certainty of repayment by the lenders and a lower interest rate. Lower interest rates for the generation and transmission cooperative (G&T) allow for lower member rates, which allows for the G&T to operate at lower equity levels.

Basin Electric is able to do long-term planning because there is a long-term member contract commitment. This commitment allows for long-term generating assets, regardless of fuel source (natural gas, coal, wind, solar, etc.).

“Some don’t like the long-term contracts that Basin has. I have the opposite view. I think it makes it easier to manage your co-op because you have that long-term stability,” Wittman says. 

Read about the benefit of communication, how there’s power in size, and more in the Basin Today story Measuring the value of membership, found in the Fall 2020 issue.

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