Basin Electric "optimistic" after a rocky 2016

Nov 11, 2016

Basin Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Paul Sukut.
Credit Courtesy Basin Electric

The general manager of Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative says fiscal year 2016 has been a challenging year.

Basin is a generation and transmission cooperative, providing power to member co-ops in a multi-state region.

Paul Sukut said it began with the the co-op looking at the ramifications from the “clean power plan" – which would affect Basin’s coal-fired generation. Then, the Great Plains Synfuels Plant – which produces synthetic natural gas and other byproducts – saw prices for its products fall. And the winter was warm.

"While we basked in this warm weather, and all enjoyed the warm weather in the upper Great Plains, that doesn't make for selling a lot of electrons," Sukut said in an interview during Basin's annual meeting in Bismarck this week. "Our loads were way off."

Sukut said Basin started an austerity program – trying to find any place it could save money, such as travel.  But he said that wasn’t enough – so Basin had to raise its wholesale rates by 12 percent.

Sukut said the member co-ops understand.

"That's what's made this organization what it is over the last 50-plus years," Sukut said. "Whenever we are in trouble, our membership stands behind us. And if they need help, we stand behind and help them."

And Sukut said things are looking much better for fiscal 2017.

"The rate increase helped us," Sukut said. "We've also seen a little lift in natural gas prices, as well as new contracts for the synfuel plan's byproducts. Yes, we're doing much, much better."

Sukut said although the load growth has slowed in the Bakken, as oil development has slowed, there is still growth there. He saids Basin will keep its austerity program in place for now – but he believes fiscal 2017 will be a better year.