Basin Electric focuses on sustainability

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What does it mean to be sustainable? Sustainability is a balance between the environment and those who use its resources. At Basin Electric, sustainability is the commitment we make to our members to meet their needs while ensuring future generations will thrive. With over 3 million consumer-owners, most of them living in areas with extreme weather conditions, providing reliable and affordable electricity is essential. And because the cooperative cares about current and future generations, it is committed to providing that electricity in an environmentally responsible manner.

“Basin Electric has a distinguished track record of environmental stewardship, sound cooperative governance, and being a good citizen through investments in our communities and teammates,” says Todd Brickhouse, Basin Electric senior vice president and chief financial officer. “A number of our financial and other stakeholders encouraged us to document these accomplishments. At first our institutional humility made us reluctant to tout our own achievements, but as we considered the idea of a sustainability report we realized it was both an appropriate way to celebrate our proud history in these areas and a good business practice to adopt.”

In response, a team of representatives from several departments across the cooperative began putting together a report to highlight the cooperative’s dedication to the people in its membership and the communities in which they live, as well as environmental stewardship and sound cooperative governance for more than 60 years. The report conveys Basin Electric’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and the efforts made to continue to build and improve upon that commitment in an affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible way. The report includes four sections that focus on key areas: reliability and sustainability, leadership in environmental stewardship, putting people first, and serving our consumer-owners.

Reliability and sustainability

Basin Electric was founded to provide power to rural America. A culture of stewardship, innovation, and adaptability has proven successful in keeping the lights (and heat) on for more than 60 years. Today, Basin Electric’s generation and transmission assets are the engines of commerce for a service territory that feeds and fuels the nation.

Especially in the Upper Great Plains, reliable electricity is more than just a convenience - it's a necessity. Our members endure harsh weather conditions for more than half the year, and it is because of these conditions that reliability is at the forefront of all the cooperative does.

Leadership in environmental stewardship

Basin Electric's stewardship of the environment has been a guiding principle since its incorporation more than six decades ago. In its Statement of Ideals and Objectives adopted in 1967, Basin Electric's members held "That a clean and healthy environment, which we all need and enjoy, must be maintained and that the energy industry should minimize impacts to the environment."

The cooperative’s leadership in environmental stewardship is evident in many ways. Basin Electric was the first utility in the nation to require that strip-mined land be returned to rolling countryside. That requirement was written into Basin Electric’s first coal contract long before rules and regulations on mined land reclamation were enacted. In the mid-1960s, Basin Electric proposed model laws to the North Dakota Legislature to protect the air, water, and land. We advocated for legislation requiring reclamation for mined land and prohibiting the dumping of fly ash and other industrial wastes into rivers.

The cooperative is also a pioneer in carbon capture, utilization, and storage with more than 20 years of experience and knowledge gained through its subsidiary, Dakota Gasification Company. In renewables, Basin Electric built and operates the largest wind project owned solely by a cooperative and it has supported the largest wind portfolio of any generation and transmission cooperative in the nation, with nearly 1,800 megawatts (MW) of wind generation in both owned wind projects and purchased power agreements. Looking ahead, Basin Electric has committed to more than 200 MW of additional wind and more than 300 MW of utility-scale solar projects across the Upper Midwest.

“From the very beginnings of Basin Electric, the cooperative has been committed to environmental stewardship and responsible management of resources,” says Erin Dukart, director of Environmental Services. “It is apparent in Basin Electric’s mine reclamation activities, wind development, carbon capture initiatives, and maintaining environmental compliance with our existing generation portfolio. The Sustainability Report gives us an opportunity to tell that story.”

Local farmers and ranchers utilize over 16,000 acres of reclaimed land for grazing cattle on grasslands and raising crops. In addition, over 4,000 acres of land has been returned to individual ownership – a testament to the cooperative’s environmental stewardship.

Putting people first

As an electric cooperative, serving the needs of its consumer-owners is a top priority. Putting people first means making sure they have reliable and affordable energy no matter the circumstance. Basin Electric is committed to the communities where employees live and work. The cooperative encourages employees to volunteer their time and it financially supports a variety of charitable organizations in its service area.

Basin Electric provides employee training programs and education-based programs such as internships, partnerships with technical colleges, and tuition assistance. An investment in employees means enhanced leadership skills, forward-thinking ideas, and a commitment to doing the right thing.

Owned by those we serve

Basin Electric is part of a three-tiered electric cooperative system, owned and governed by its members. “There are many characteristics that strengthen our governance model, but two are especially noteworthy,” Brickhouse says. “First, the members of our board of directors are democratically elected at each level so they are well aligned with the opportunities and challenges in the cooperative’s service area. Second, each of our board members must be an end-use consumer, so they feel the impact of Basin Electric’s strategic and operational decisions. Said differently, we eat our own cooking.”

In the last few years, Basin Electric has built and operated assets quickly in response to member's needs. Whether it was membership load growth in the Bakken, urban expansion, or load growth in the agricultural sector, the membership family has been there for each other time and again. Every single day, Basin Electric plans for the future and adheres to a path of strategic cost management in order to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible, striving to do the right thing - both when it's easy, and when it's hard.

There are many ways to support sustainability. Basin Electric’s Sustainability Report represents the commitment it has to its members through reliability as well as the promise of a better, more environmentally responsible future. Basin Electric is doing its part by providing the membership with energy that is safely produced, reliable, economic, and most importantly, sustainable.

The Sustainability Report is available now on our website, and will be mailed out with the 2022 Annual Report this coming spring.


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