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Diversified power generation, SunTuria Solar and $3.7 million settlement announced at 79th annual meeting

Polk-Burnett's 79th annual meeting June 9

Board President Ed Gullickson, at podium, welcomed 160 members and guests to Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative’s annual meeting at Frederic High School June 9.

About 160 members and guests attended Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative’s 79th annual meeting at Frederic High School Friday, June 9, where they heard from co-op leaders about plans for diversified power generation, SunTuria Solar and a $3.7 million nuclear settlement.

“The annual meeting gives co-op members a chance to meet directors and employees, learn about co-op performance and provide feedback. As a member of a co-op, you are an owner and have a voice,” said Polk-Burnett Board President Ed Gullickson, who welcomed members and called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m.

Where does co-op power come from?
Barbara Nick, president and CEO, Dairyland Power Cooperative, was this year’s guest speaker. La Crosse-based Dairyland Power provides electricity for 600,000 people in the region and serves as the wholesale power provider for 24 distribution cooperatives, including Polk-Burnett. Nick shared Dairyland's plan to diversify the generation resources that power Polk-Burnett lines and member homes, businesses and farms.

“Diversification reduces our carbon footprint, is sustainable and makes good business sense,” said Nick. “Our plan includes a careful balance of solar, wind, natural gas and hydro, as well as environmental controls for existing coal plants. Our target increases renewables and reduces coal to 50% of total generation by 2026.”

Nick also shared an update on Dairyland’s nuclear facility in Genoa, Wisconsin. An outside firm has been hired to decommission the plant, which has been shut down since 1987. On-site spent fuel storage will continue, and litigation continues over the government’s failure to provide permanent off-site storage. (See story of La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor.)

Keeping your lights on
General Manager Steve Stroshane reported that the co-op serves 20,241 members and has 60 employees, 53 on the electric side and seven for propane services. All are dedicated to providing reliable electricity, he said. Co-op employees maintain 3,378 miles of power line across 2,000 square miles. In 2016, $3 million was invested to upgrade the electric system, including 49 miles of power line construction and replacement of 180 power poles in poor condition. “Most of us today can’t imagine life without electricity to power our appliances, electronics, computers and technology,” said Stroshane. “Polk-Burnett is proud to rank in the top 25% of co-ops in the nation for reliability.”

SunTuria Solar will provide clean energy at a long-term, stable rate
Stroshane also announced Polk-Burnett’s new SunTuria Solar project, a 10-acre solar development to be constructed behind the co-op’s Centuria office later this summer. “This is the first utility-scale solar development in Polk County,” announced Stroshane. “SunTuria Solar will provide clean, renewable energy at a fixed rate, replacing electricity from fossil fuels and providing long-term, stable energy prices.” With 4,800 panels, it will generate power for about 200 homes.

The co-op offers other innovative technologies to serve members, including a SmartHub app where members can track electricity use, pay electric bills and check for outages online. Polk-Burnett also offers an online outage map and outage notifications via text messaging.

Not-for-profit co-op holds rates steady and gives money back
Board President Gullickson reported that Polk-Burnett is financially solid and the co-op is efficient and effective at holding down costs, while providing member-owners with reliable power and extraordinary service.

Rates did not go up in 2017. They were restructured in 2016, with the kWh charge going down and the basic charge going up to cover fixed costs. The result was a reduction in revenue for the co-op.

“As a co-op, rates are set to cover the costs of delivering reliable electricity, not to generate profit, and all revenue beyond expenses is returned to members as Capital Credits,” said Gullickson.

In 2016, Polk-Burnett retired $848,000 in Capital Credits to 16,000 co-op members.

$3.7 million nuclear waste settlement will be invested and returned to members
​Gullickson announced that Polk-Burnett received $3.7 million from Dairyland Power Cooperative as part of a settlement from the government for failure to provide a permanent storage for nuclear waste. (See story of La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor.)

“We will invest $2.7 million into a project that replaces deteriorating underground cable and improves reliability for members,” said Gullickson. “This accelerates work that would have taken years to complete and aligns with our mission to provide reliable power. Beyond investing in system upgrades, we will retire an additional $1 million in Capital Credits in September. The special retirement will be paid out to members who purchased electricity in 1994 and 1995. If you purchased electricity in those years, you’ll get money back,” announced Gullickson.

In other financial news, Gullickson reported that the co-op showed $92 million in assets and $34 million in operating revenue for 2016; consolidated net margins were $3.3 million. Polk-Burnett sold just over 222 million kWhs of electricity and the cost to purchase that power was $17.8 million. The complete financial audit for 2016 is posted on PolkBurnett.com.

Improving our local quality of life
|Polk-Burnett also invests in local youth and community. Stroshane reported that $45,000 in scholarships was awarded to the sons and daughters of co-op members in 2016 and again for the Class of 2017.

In addition, Polk-Burnett’s Operation Round-Up program awarded $52,640 to 72 local, nonprofit organizations in 2016 to improve our local quality of life. “Thank you for rounding up your electric bills; your small change makes a big difference,” he said.

Beyond financial support, Stroshane recognized co-op employees who performed 600 hours of community service last year. “Community support is a cooperative principle and core value,” he said.

2017 director election returns three incumbents to board
This year, members elected directors in co-op districts 1, 2 and 3. Voter participation was 18.5%, with 1,233 ballots received. Members voted by mail and electronically, with online voting new this year. Election results were tabulated for ballots received May 1 to 30.

In district 1, Cindy Thorman ran unopposed and was e-elected. In district 2, Mike Morris ran unopposed and was re-elected. In district 3, Ed Gullickson, the incumbent, ran against Marlin Baillargeon. Gullickson was re-elected.

Polk-Burnett’s 79th annual meeting concluded with a member forum conducted by the board chair and general manager. Members asked questions and shared comments about underground v. overhead power lines, board representation by seasonal members, the basic electric charge and solar net metering.

All in attendance received a pound of cheese and LED light bulbs.  Members also had the opportunity to win a $50 credit on their electric bill; 10 names were randomly drawn at the end of the meeting for this attendance prize. ~ from Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative

Co-op leadership at 79th annual meeting

Co-op leaders shared plans for diversified power generation, SunTuria Solar and a $3.7 million nuclear settlement at Polk-Burnett’s 79th annual meeting June 9. Back L-R: Polk-Burnett General Manager Steve Stroshane and Dairyland Power Cooperative President and CEO Barbara Nick. Front L-R: Polk-Burnett Board Secretary/Treasurer Chuck Brookshaw, Vice President Mike Morris and President Ed Gullickson.

Congratulations to the following members who won the drawing for a $50 electric bill credit:

  1. Charlene Dunst, Luck
  2. Wylis & Susan Silvernagel, Amery
  3. Roger Upson, Edina
  4. Donald Schulz, Webster
  5. John Jacobson, Roseville
  6. Vincent Linehan, Webster
  7. Ron Nelson, Amery
  8. Jerome Ellingson, Osceola
  9. Nathan Ardolf, Webster
  10. Shirley Schilling, Balsam Lake
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