Southern Minnesota Energy Co-op Growing

Upon state and federal approval, 43,000 Alliant co-op members will join SMEC.

Published on: Sep 10, 2013

Some 43,000 new electric customers will be joining a southern Minnesota electric co-op if state and federal regulators approve Alliant Energy's plan to sell its Minnesota electric and natural gas distribution businesses.

Alliant Energy Corp, based in Madison, Wis., announced that it had reached an agreement to sell its electric distribution service to Southern Minnesota Energy Cooperative, a group of 12 locally owned and operated electric co-ops.

"Electric cooperatives already have a long track record of serving member-owners in southern Minnesota," said Bill Oemichen, Cooperative Network president and CEO.  "In fact, member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives were usually formed because for-profit utilities thought it wasn't cost effective to serve low-density areas with so few customers."

Southern Minnesota Energy Co-op Growing
Southern Minnesota Energy Co-op Growing

The state's 44 electric distribution cooperatives together cover 85% of the geographic area in Minnesota.

"If approved, this deal will literally give power back to the people who use the cooperative's services," Oemichen said.

Cooperatives are democratically run, so members have the opportunity to vote for directors, and any revenues generated are returned to customers in dividends or improved services.

Ownership changes from Alliant to the SMEC are likely to take effect in six to 12 months, assuming regulatory approval is granted. Under the proposed agreement, Alliant customers would become members of the 12 distribution cooperatives that make up the SMEC.

The 12 SMEC member cooperatives are BENCO Electric Cooperative, Brown County Rural Electrical Association, Federated Rural Electric, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services, Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, Nobles Cooperative Electric, People's Energy Cooperative, Redwood Electric Cooperative, Sioux Valley Energy, South Central Electric Association, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric and Tri-County Electric Cooperative.

Cooperative Network is a trade association committed to building Minnesota's and Wisconsin's cooperative businesses. Cooperative Network serves more than 600 member-cooperatives, owned by more than 6.1 million Wisconsin and Minnesota residents, by providing government relations, education, marketing, and technical services for a wide variety of cooperatives including farm supply, health, dairy marketing, consumer, financial, livestock marketing, telecommunications, electric, housing, insurance, worker-owned cooperatives, and more.