CEO’s Message – January 2021

2021 Updates – A Look at the New Year


At Stearns Electric Association, our mission is to safely provide competitively priced and reliable electric service, beneficial energy solutions, and a positive member experience. We work daily to exceed member expectations by providing superior member service and offering programs that help you save time and money.

In order to help us gauge our success at providing a positive member experience to our member-consumers, we conduct an annual member satisfaction survey through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

Throughout 2020, over 600 Stearns Electric Association members participated in this member satisfaction survey. Members were randomly selected to receive a survey, which was completed either by phone or online.

Members evaluated the Cooperative in the areas of responsiveness, listening, understanding, service and overall Cooperative experience. Overall member satisfaction for Stearns Electric Association is very high, with 95.2% of members rating their overall Cooperative experience as either satisfied or very satisfied.

Additionally, 92.4% of those surveyed stated that Stearns Electric meets or exceeds their expectations. Although we are pleased with these scores, we plan to continue working hard on behalf of our members and we are constantly looking for ways to improve our overall member experience.

During the survey, members also have time to provide comments on their experience with the Cooperative. In 2020, two topics came up, which I’d like to address this month: our Right-of-Way Vegetation Management program and the Fixed Charge on our electric bill.


In 2017, Stearns Electric began an aggressive four-year Right-of-Way (ROW) vegetation management program. This project was planned out and budgeted over the last four years to improve electrical service reliability and assure our Cooperative’s Right-of-Ways were safe for the public and Stearns Electric employees.

In 2020, we completed our four-year project with much success. In 2016, before our ROW project began, nearly 25% of the Cooperative’s power outages were caused by trees. Since then, we have seen a decrease in tree-related outages for Stearns Electric members. We will publish a comprehensive analysis of the ROW program in Power Connection later this year.

Our first four-year ROW clearing cycle is complete, but the work continues into 2021 and beyond. This requires continued inspection and vegetation clearing in our ROW areas. We are excited to announce the hiring of an arborist to our Cooperative team who will oversee this effort. Erica Joelson has worked with us as an outside contractor over the past four years and will continue leading our ROW program as a Stearns Electric employee in 2021.

Throughout 2021 you can learn more about our ROW program through an infographic series on page 7 of the newsletter.


Our member survey results also indicated that some members have questions regarding the Stearns Electric Fixed Charge on their electric bill.

The Fixed Charge, which is $24.75 per month for Stearns Electric Association accounts, is designed to recover the basic cost of electric service, independent of how much energy is used per member. It accounts for Stearns Electric’s investment in equipment like power poles, wires and transformers, as well as labor to safely provide members with reliable electric service.

It also supports fleet, facility and customer service functions, such as line maintenance, Right-of-Way clearing, member service support and administrative responsibilities.

If you only use one kWh of electricity and your neighbor uses 1,000 kWh, Stearns Electric still incurs the same cost to build the line, maintain the distribution system and deliver electricity to both of you.

No matter how much or how little energy you use each month, certain costs must be recovered. Our goal is to recover those costs as fairly as possible, which is why we have a monthly Fixed Charge.


Robin C. Doege