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Big changes ahead for Basin Electric

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Basin Electric Power Cooperative is making changes.

"I can't recall a time in the last 30 years we have had this much at stake," said CEO Paul Sukut during the cooperative's annual meeting in Bismarck Wednesday. 

In addition to challenges caused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's rules limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, Basin is having to evolve to keep up with the changing utilities industry.

Gas or fertilizer

Sukut said, with the addition of a urea fertilizer plant at Basin's Dakota Gasification Co. Great Plains Synfuels Plant, the focus of the plant could change.

With the low price being paid for fuels and the chance those prices could remain low for some time, Sukut said the company is asking itself whether the plant would be better off as a hydrofuels factory or as a fertilizer factory.

Sukut said he expects to have a better idea in spring 2017 but expects the cooperative will have a better market for fertilizer and will be better serving its members in that capacity.

A possible partnership

For about nine months, Sukut said Basin and Minnkota Power Cooperative have been studying the possibility of a partnership.

"There's a chance that they could become a member (of Basin)," said Sukut, adding the cooperatives are not ready to make a decision yet.

Sukut said a partnership makes sense and helps both companies by allowing them to use each other's power since neither one wants to build new resources.

A new market

Basin joined the Southwest Power Pool regional transmission organization Oct. 1.

Sukut said joining the pool expands the market in which Basin can sell excess power or buy more as necessary, though it has been purchasing more lately to keep up with increased demand.

It also gives them access to more transmission lines.

Previously the cooperative was part of a smaller partnership. This gives them much more reach.

Sukut said many utilities are moving into these types of organizations and Basin is trying to keep up with the market while still maintaining its cooperative values.

(Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com)

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