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Menomonie, Wis. – Dunn Energy Cooperative (DEC) celebrated their 86th Annual Meeting of Members on Thursday, May 18, 2023. With 120 people in attendance, the Cooperative bid farewell to longtime Director Larry Amble. Amble, who has represented District 1 for the last 12 years reached his term limit. During his final President’s Speech, he took time to thank the directors, managers, and employees both past and present for their support throughout the years. Amble was given a meter lamp as a token of the Cooperative’s gratitude for his years of service.

Directors Dean Stokke and Rachel Kummer secured another term on the board for districts four and nine respectively.

Amble also spoke to his belief in the Cooperative’s Operation Round Up program. Through small actions, the voices (and change) of many can combine to do great things. In 2022, the Operation Round Up program awarded nearly $48,000 in grants to local not-for-profit organizations. He asked members who do not currently participate to think about signing up, to help create an even bigger contribution to organizations in need in our communities.

General Manager/CEO Jesse Singerhouse introduced special guests State Representative Clint Moses and Senator Rob Stafsholt, as well as guest speaker Rob Richard, Director of Government Relations for the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association.

Singerhouse also introduced the 2023 scholarship winners. Each year Dunn Energy Cooperative awards 15 scholarships to local graduating seniors whose parents are members of the Cooperative. Along with the youth scholarship, DEC awards a single non-traditional scholarship to someone returning to school after a hiatus of at least three years, as well as a scholarship at Chippewa Valley Technical College for someone in the Electrical Power Distribution program.

The crowd also heard remarks from Singerhouse on the day-to-day operations of the Cooperative, as well as the Cooperative’s financial stability.

“First and foremost, we operated safely day in and day out. We kept your energy reliable, with members having power over 99% of the time, we kept your energy affordable by controlling costs where we could, to try and minimize the impacts of inflation,” Said Singerhouse. “We made your energy more environmentally responsible by securing agreements to build small scale solar farms near Boyceville and Colfax. Those principles of safely providing our members reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy drive what we do operationally each day.”

Singerhouse also spoke to the challenges the Cooperative faced in 2022. Supply chain issues and the dramatic increase in the costs of materials were a major hurdle in 2022 and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. He also remarked on the push from outside influences trying to disrupt the regulated industry we currently enjoy.

“Our industry is seeing efforts by groups, individual states, and federal agencies through laws, regulations and mandates to take away our ability to use an all-of-the-above approach to power generation. Energy policy, like many issues in our society, has been overtaken by a political ideology which tries to divide people on issues by making things absolute, meaning you're either for it or against it, with no middle ground,” commented Singerhouse. “

Singerhouse continued, “Being an electric cooperative allows us to be the truth tellers as we talk about the future of power generation. Because we were formed by our members to serve our members, not shareholders or profits. It allows us to approach issues in a fair and practical way with the goal of solving problems and looking out for the best interest of our members.”

In conclusion, Singerhouse thanked the members for their business and reminded them that, “Energy policy does not have to be an absolute. We can have both a reliable grid and a healthy environment, by using a common sense, long-term practical approach with an all-of-the-above energy policy while technology develops.”

Guest Speaker Rob Richard also spoke to the threat of third-party ownership of renewable energy systems. Richard noted that the threat is that third-party installers would piggy-back on cooperative-owned infrastructure, without having to pay for it, and at the same time cherry-pick the largest loads to serve. This could create a large loss of load and reduction in sales for the cooperative while creating the need to maintain facilities (lines, poles, and equipment) without revenue. This could be the perfect storm of sales loss and maintenance cost increases that would negatively affect the rates of the rest of the cooperative membership.

“With nearly $400 billion being invested in clean energy programs and tax credits, there are many reasons why clean energy startups are booming and some of their business practices may be a little unscrupulous,” stated Rob Richard, Director of Government Relations for WECA. “What the bankruptcies of Moxie Solar and Sun Badger Solar have taught us is that there is a role for our electric cooperatives to play in helping to fully educate our consumer members on issues like community solar and third-party ownership. At the very least, our cooperative members need to have a basic understanding of how the business practices of unregulated entities can financially impact the cooperative, cause potential cost-shifting to members who would not participate in these programs, and why the lack of strong consumer protections for signing 20-25 year contracts should worry them significantly.”        

Richard made sure to stress that WECA supports the installation of renewable energy, but not to the detriment of reliability and increased costs to the membership.

Members in attendance enjoyed a meal and fellowship and ended the meeting with a progressive drawing for bill credits in amounts increasing from $25 to $400. As a thank you for attending, the group was also given a pound of cheese from neighboring cooperative partner, Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery.