Town hall scheduled for ongoing electric co-ops dispute

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 6:44 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Some energy consumers in east central South Dakota are hoping to get answers to their questions regarding Dakota Energy Co-op’s push to leave East River Electric.

The legal dispute is coming up on it’s 5th month, as Dakota Energy is currently attempting to leave it’s membership from East River Electric, and buy power from Colorado-based Guzman Energy. Back in November, Dakota Energy stated that it’s desire to leave was to seek other options.

Dakota Energy primarily serves customers in Beadle, Hand, and Hyde counties, and is one of the founding members of East River Electric, currently made up of 24 member cooperatives and one municipal-owned electric system.

A town hall event has been scheduled by Dakota Energy for the 8th, allowing members to register either in-person or virtually and have a chance to hear from Board and Staff members, as well as representatives from Guzman Energy.

Over the last few months, information has been shared and opinions expressed from parties and individuals whose...

Posted by Dakota Energy Cooperative on Friday, April 2, 2021

Jim Propst of Huron is a current customer of Dakota Energy. In a phone interview, he says he looks forward to a town hall, noting that he still has many unanswered questions about Dakota Energy’s desire to leave East River Electric.

“You know, there’s a lot of people that have reached out to the board. And from the ones that I’ve talked to, they’ve gotten the same response, in that the board really hasn’t, really been very open at all. They seem to be guarded.” Propst said.

Propst also said that he’s heard from other Dakota Energy customers who are looking forward to the town hall with questions.

“Would be nice if we would have a lot of community involvement here.”

In a statement to Dakota News Now, Dakota Energy states that the town hall is an opportunity for members to hear from Cooperative leaders.

We’re hopeful that any of the interested Dakota Energy member-owners are able to attend in person or online. Our board and executive team are excited to have the opportunity to speak with our member-owners and hear from them. Ideally, our member-owners would already have all of the information including what it will cost to exit, but unfortunately East River won’t provide that information.

We know there has been a lot of misinformation and even scare tactics about what we are trying to do. One of our main goals is to reassure our member-owners that we are looking out for their best interests by keeping prices low and decisions local.

We want to be as transparent as possible. East River has misrepresented the facts around these two companies in an effort to scare our member-owners. We think our member-owners deserve to hear directly from their CEOs.

For more than two years, our board has requested a fair and equitable exit cost in order to make the best decision for member-owners. We want to use this opportunity to inform and hear from our member-owners as we wait for the information they deserve from East River.

Dakota Energy Cooperative statement to Dakota News Now. Apr. 5, 2021.

In a statement to Dakota News Now, East River Electric states that the town hall is an opportunity for members to ask questions of Dakota Energy leadership, and the future of the cooperative.

East River Electric was created by Dakota Energy and the other member cooperatives that are part of the East River family. For 70 years we’ve worked alongside Dakota Energy which continues to own East River Electric along with many other member cooperatives in eastern South Dakota.

Dakota Energy has a representative on East River’s board that helps set the direction of the cooperative and approves electric rates each year. Dakota Energy’s lawsuit is an attempt to buy out of a long-term contract they signed in 2015 and buy power from an out-of-state, for-profit energy broker from Denver called Guzman Energy. Guzman Energy simply buys and sells energy on the market, and as we saw during the February energy emergency in Texas and elsewhere the energy market can pose a lot of risk. Unlike Guzman Energy, East River and its power supplier Basin Electric own generation and transmission in the market which helps to guard cooperative members from market volatility. East River hopes members of Dakota Energy will have the opportunity to ask important questions at this week’s Town Hall meeting about the future of their cooperative.

East River Electric statement to Dakota News Now. Apr. 5, 2021.

The town hall will be limited in capacity due to health precautions. Members are encouraged to register ahead of time, or reach out for a virtual meeting link.

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