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Cass County Electric Cooperative’s (CCEC) system reliability is something we take pride in and focus on every day. We understand the importance of keeping power on to provide safety and security and to operate your homes, farms, ranches, and businesses. 2023 was on track to be one of your co-op’s best years for reliability in the past 25 years – until Monday, Dec. 25, 2023.

It had been raining for several hours on Christmas Day, the temperature started to drop, and ice began to form on poles, wires, and trees. We had our first outage around 2:56 p.m., with several poles broken, five substations out, and over 2,500 members without power. The damage to our electrical distribution system continued for two days until the sun came out and the temperature climbed above freezing. At one point, there were approximately 4,500 accounts without power, 1,200 poles down, many wire breaks, and broken cross arms. Our system was in bad shape, and we needed help.

All hands were on deck. We had 28 of our linemen working with many other employees from the engineering, power control, metering, energy management, member accounts, communications, and operations departments. Cooperation among cooperatives is part of the cooperative business model’s uniqueness. We called on other cooperatives to send lineworkers and equipment to aid in the restoration process. The call was answered by 15 other electric cooperatives across North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. We had 130 linemen in the field working 15-hour days and restoredall essential accounts by 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 (Day 12). I can proudly say that we had ZERO OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) accidents and only a few minor equipment damages during restoration efforts.

The cooperative is well positioned financially, with an annual revenue of $157.9 million, up 4.3% ($6.48 million) from 2022. As a result, the year-end operating margins set another record at $12.4 million, including $4.9 million in revenue deferred funds. Because of our solid margins and strong balance sheet, CCEC’s board of directors approved an overall $3.5 million capital credit retirement including members who purchased electricity in 2003 and 2004 (partial year).

2023 was another excellent year for account growth. We added 1,590 new accounts, slightly below the 23-year average of 1,615 new accounts/year. Because of this growth, we continue to rank in the top 11% of cooperatives nationwide. Energy sales were at 1.367 billion kWh, down 0.03% from 2022, but we continue to rank in the top 9% for cooperatives nationwide.

The cost to operate the cooperative, or the distribution adder, was $0.02321/kWh, 40% below similar-sized cooperatives in the nation thanks to the efficient operations of our employees and the board of directors.

During the annual reorganizational meeting, Director Glenn Mitzel was elected as board chair, Director Terry Kraft as vice chair, Director Paul White as secretary, and Director Kalvin Hoff as treasurer. In the fall of 2022, the board of directors approved the cooperative’s implementation of a Time-of-Day (TOD) pilot rate. 2023 supplied the cooperative with a full year of data from about 40 accounts that helped evaluate if the parameters and the rates are where they need to be for both the member and the cooperative. The TOD rate is designed to provide members with flexibility and member choice for rates.

The board of directors also approved Vogel Law as CCEC’s official legal counsel.

Our engineering and operations team gathered data and applied for two Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnership (GRIP) program grants. One was for replacing overhead lines with underground cables, and the other was for Smart Grid, expanding our automated switches in the metro areas. The team also implemented GPS Insight, which is used for real-time vehicle location, and ArcGIS Online, a cloud-based mapping solution.

High-level member service is another primary focus of the cooperative’s dedicated employees. In 2023, we surveyed our members and scored an 86 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI). The average cooperative score is 74. We attribute this achievement to the power of our people, who all work daily to provide reliable service with excellent member engagement.

Cybersecurity is also top of mind to ensure our members’ data is secure. In late 2022, we implemented Mimecast, an email security platform. In 2023, we monitored and updated the configuration of Mimecast to provide more granular needs and enhance our email security.

Moving forward, the cooperative will continue investing time, talent, and resources into economic development to spur load growth and help our communities prosper. We will look for new ways to provide member choice, educate our communities, and remain your trusted energy advisor.

We will continue working with Minnkota Power Cooperative to assess future power supply needs, including carbon capture and sequestration. We will strive daily to be good stewards of the environment, to be responsible with our members’ money, and to keep the power on.

We look forward to the 2024 annual meeting and hope to see you there on April 16, 2024.


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