Members in action at MAC meeting
Keeping the cooperative running smoothly requires input from our members. One way this is accomplished is through the annual Member Advisory Committee (MAC) meeting. This year’s meeting, held Tuesday, Feb. 2, was attended by 15 co-op members.
These members were briefed on various topics including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, the Menards®, Inc. N.D. Supreme Court case with Montana-Dakota Utilities, Central Power Electric Cooperative transmission system upgrades, redistricting possibilities, wholesale electric rates and more. Financial results, the availability of deferred revenue, and an analysis of our current electric rates were presented to give MAC attendees a full financial picture and an idea of where we are headed in the future. During the meeting, Roberta Thorson of Arena was elected to serve a 3-year term on the Capital Electric Cooperative Charitable Trust board of directors.
Paul Sukut addresses Clean Power Plan at MAC meeting
During this year’s Member Advisory Committee (MAC) meeting, Basin Electric General Manager Paul Sukut addressed the group on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The initial plan included a required carbon emission reduction in North Dakota by 11 percent. This was a difficult but attainable benchmark for us to reach. The final plan was released with a new target for North Dakota of reducing carbon emissions by 45 percent by the year 2030. In addition, we would get no credit for the carbon reductions we have already achieved via the addition of a considerable investment in wind energy to date.
As one of the nation’s leading users of coal to generate electricity, the Clean Power Plan requirements would hit our state very hard. According to Sukut, “I can’t think of anything right now that would have a more dire effect on North Dakota than the Clean Power Plan.” North Dakota would be expected to significantly change its mix of power generation through the addition of more wind and natural gas, as well as efficiencies in coal generation to meet the 45 percent reduction. The technology doesn’t currently exist to bring our coal plants into compliance at that level and run them at full capacity. If we were to shut them down, the idle coal plants would still have significant debt attached to them. Consumers would continue to pay for them, along with the added wind and gas facilities.
Sukut went on to explain, “We have a three-pronged approach to dealing with the rule: beat the rule, change the rule or meet the rule.” Because the rule is already a law, beating it means taking the EPA on in court. Changing the rule is difficult as well, as passing this type of legislation would not make it through the current administration.
The process of meeting the rule’s requirements has many challenges, one of which is the coordination of six power generating utilities in the state that would need to work together to make it happen. Three cooperatives make up 92 percent of the coal generation in North Dakota including Basin Electric, Minnkota Power Cooperative and Great River Energy. It would fall on them to do the heavy lifting to meet this carbon reduction rule.
Our next step as a state is to adopt and implement a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to address the Clean Power Plan. If we don’t, we will be forced to utilize a federal plan that will be created for us without our input. In either case, estimates to implement a plan could be as high as $5 billion, resulting in a possible rate increase for consumers of 30 to 40 percent. This equates to a possible 2 cents per-kilowatt-hour increase sometime in the future.
We will continue to update you on this vital issue as information becomes available.