Letter: …we need to seek answers

To the Editor
Great River Energy’s plan to sell its Coal Creek Power Plant to Rainbow Energy Center, LLC, and then buy power from Rainbow raises serious questions. A year ago, in the Spring of 2020, Great River Energy (GRE), the power supplier for twenty-eight electric coops in Minnesota, Including Lake Country Power, announced plans to shut down its Coal Creek power plant, fueled by coal. A reason given by GRE for the sale is cost to run the plant.
About seven years ago at an annual meeting of our coop, Lake Country Power, the GRE representative touted the addition of Spiritwood, their new coal powered plant and its future role as a part of GRE electricity production. Some members raised questions about continuing the use of coal amid the increased environmental concerns. The GRE representative said coal was, and would be in the future, the cheapest fuel for energy production and would save us on our electric bills. Now it seems, that has not been the case. Coal is neither the least costly or most efficient way to produce electricity. But—GRE now plans to buy electricity from the Coal Creek plant once Rainbow Energy assumes control. How is buying power from Rainbow going to cost less?
Also with the sale to Rainbow goes a valuable asset, the high powered transmission line between North Dakota and Minnesota. (The transmission line is being sold to a subsidiary of Rainbow). Why? And why aren’t the members of the coops that make up GRE being told about the details both sales? Some members have been told sale particulars cannot be disclosed because of a non-disclosure agreement. This seems contrary to the very principle of coop governance.
A representative from each member coop makes up the GRE board and will be involved in approval of the sales. Hopefully these representatives will be allowed to inform their members the plans for and details of the sales before the deal is sealed.
Obviously the State of North Dakota has a major interest in the continued production of coal generated electricity in order to support coal mining operations in North Dakota. This raises questions about what subsidy might be involved and what GRE will gain by purchasing its power from the plant. As members of Lake Country Power Coop we need to seek answers.
Anne Stewart Uehling
Ely, MN