CEO’s Message – May 2023

Rapid Changes Continue to Impact Co-op

The energy industry is constantly evolving and changing, and this year is no different. As we can finally feel spring and summer heading our way, I want to take this month to update you on other areas of the Cooperative that continue to move quickly.

Safety is a foundational component to our Stearns Electric culture. We value safety not only for our employees, but for everyone. The snowpack has finally melted, and we are all excited to get outdoors and complete our outdoor work. Whether you are a farmer preparing for planting or a homeowner working on house projects, make sure you are safely prepared for every project. Look up for overhead power lines. Call 811 before you dig, even if you are just planting a shrub or installing a new mailbox. Contact a qualified electrician to help with your home electrical projects.

Spring is also a time to remember to slow down and move over for roadside crews. Our field employees are out daily working to enhance the distribution system, manage our Right-of-Way and stake in new projects. Please help us get our employees home safely to their loved ones every day by staying alert, slowing down and moving over.

The fast-moving 2023 State legislative session, where we have seen over 6,500 bills introduced, is nearing an end. May 22 marks the date that lawmakers must adjourn and so much of their focus over the last couple of weeks has shifted to debating and moving on various omnibus bills. There are still several key issues we are watching in partnership with our statewide organization, the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA). One of them, the 100% carbon-free by 2040 bill, was passed earlier in the session, but details surrounding its implementation have yet to be completely hashed out. A few other issues on radar include the rural electrification property tax exemption, load control receiver inspections and state mandates on electric cooperatives.

In February, I had the opportunity to testify in front of the Senate Tax Committee regarding property taxes on rural cooperative distribution infrastructure – something we have been working on for two years. The November 2022 and February 2023 newsletter CEO columns provided further detail on this clarification legislation. Since 1939, the Department of Revenue (DOR) has excluded co-op owned rural meters and streetlights from a rural electrification property tax. This property tax exemption is critical for ensuring rural Minnesotans continue to receive affordable electric service. Back in 2019, the DOR changed the way it interpreted the law, substantially increasing our property tax amount. At this time, we are still hopeful that the proposed clarifying language will be included in the 2023 tax bill.

Please note, the legislative session wraps up after this column goes to print but will likely be closed when members receive this newsletter in late May. I will provide an update in future issues of Power Connection on any substantial legislation that impacts Stearns Electric.

In partnership with MREA and several other electric utility and affiliated organizations throughout Minnesota, we have submitted a letter of commitment to participate in a Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnership (GRIP) grant application. These grant dollars are available to electric utility providers and distributors that aim to improve electric grid reliability and resilience through the implementation of innovative projects on a local and/or regional scale.

If awarded, grant dollars would be used to upgrade and replace traditional substation and distribution system equipment with electronically controlled, communication ready and battery backed up equipment. Grant dollars would also be used to expand SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) equipment and capabilities throughout the distribution system. These two efforts would allow for automatically restoring power to as many members as possible, as quickly as possible, in the event of a permanent fault.

Additionally, the improved collection of real-time data, combined with remote switching capability throughout the distribution system, will set Stearns Electric up to better manage power flow and power quality as the adoption and penetration of electric vehicles and distributed energy resources continue to rise into the future. Distributed energy resources include member-owned and installed solar, wind and battery technology equipment.

Though the industry is constantly evolving and facing new challenges, I assure you Stearns Electric is prepared to keep up with new legislation and innovation initiatives. We work hard to maintain electric reliability for all of our members and are excited to see how these new technologies will help us achieve our mission into the future.


Matt O’Shea
Chief Executive Officer