Energy Policy Forum: Electric Co-ops Lead Minnesota Innovation



Event Date

1/12/2017 5:00:00 PM

Event Location

Minnesota History Center
3M Auditorium
345 W Kellogg Blvd.
St Paul, MN 55102

Directions and Parking

5:00-6:00 Networking, cash bar & appetizers
6:00-8:15 Program


Event Details

Innovation is essential in the face of rapid change, and no one knows this better than Minnesota’s rural cooperative electric utilities. An innovation themselves nearly a century ago, our rural electric cooperatives were created to ensure that electricity’s benefits were available to the farm communities and local economies of rural Minnesota. 

Today, rural electric cooperatives are still on the leading edge of innovation, bringing new options to their member-customers while ensuring reliable, affordable electric service. So how are Minnesota’s co-ops responding to emerging industry dynamics such as lower growth in customer demand, policy and customer expectations for cleaner fuel sources and more efficient technologies, aging infrastructure, and cheaper wind and solar?

Join us to learn from their experience and discuss what’s new and what's next for our electric cooperatives.



Mike Bull & Jenny Edwards | Center for Energy and Environment

David Saggau | Great River Energy, President and CEO
saggau-resized-(1).pngDavid Saggau came to Great River Energy with 10 years of legal experience in the electric industry. He was an attorney for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission  in Washington, D.C., and a senior regulatory attorney for New England Electric Systems in Massachusetts. Saggau was also Cooperative Power’s attorney for three years prior to the organization’s 1999 consolidation with United Power Association to form Great River Energy. 

Saggau sits on the boards of directors of the Lignite Energy Council, Minnesota Business Partnership, ACES, Greater MSP, Urban Battles, Midwest AgEnergy Group, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, and the University of North Dakota Foundation.

Minnesota Expert Panelists
Jim Horan | MN Rural Electric Association, Director of Government Affairs & Counsel

Horan_Headshot.jpgJim Horan serves as a resource for Minnesota cooperatives in developing policy, mitigating risk, and communicating with stakeholders. Prior to joining MREA, Horan managed regulatory/government affairs, communications, and member services at a distribution cooperative in Oregon. Horan is passionate about the cooperative model, the utility industry, and the health of rural communities.

Beth Soholt | Wind on the Wires, Executive Director

Beth-Solholt_low-res-(1).jpgBeth Soholt brings more than 15 years of experience working with the electric industry in various capacities. At Wind on the Wires she directs work in the areas of technical/transmission planning, state regulatory proceedings, legislative education, and outreach. Soholt holds a seat on the Midwest Independent System Operator Advisory Committee representing the environmental sector and is a representative on the Stakeholder Steering Committee of the Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative.

Ryan Hentges | Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, General Manager 

Hentges-resized.pngRyan Hentges began his career at MVEC in 2005 as Vice President of Corporate Services, overseeing MVEC’s technology, meter reading, billing, legal coordination, and corporate-wide programs. In February 2016, Hentges became General Manager of MVEC and now reports directly to MVEC’s Board of Directors with operational oversight of the organization. 

Jessica Burdette | MN Department of Commerce,  State Energy Office Manager

Jessica-resized.pngJessica Burdette has been with the Division of Energy Resources since 2012 and is responsible for the regulation of over 180 natural gas and electric utility efficiency programs to ensure achievement of the 1.5% energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) through the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP). She oversees policy development related to demand-side efficiency, supply-side efficiency, and combined heat and power under the EERS. Burdette also has oversight of public sector energy efficiency and conservation programs and all operational functions of the State Energy Office. 

Mike Bull | Center for Energy and Environment, Director of Policy and Communications 

Mike_B_web-resized.jpgMike Bull oversees development, evaluation, and communication of CEE’s statewide work on clean energy solutions. Before joining CEE, Bull held a number of policy positions in state government, including Assistant Commissioner for Renewable Energy at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Senior Policy Advisor to former Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Manager of Policy and Strategy for Xcel Energy’s eight-state service territory.  

Panel Discussion & Audience Q&A
Moderated by Chris Farrell, American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio

Chris Farrell has spent much of his professional life reporting and writing about economics to help people make the most of their money. Currently he is senior economics contributor at Marketplace, American Public Media’s nationally syndicated public radio business and personal finance programs. Farrell is also an economics commentator for Minnesota Public Radio and writes regularly for Bloomberg Businessweek and Star Tribune. 

Thank you to our sponsor


The McKnight Foundation fosters and supports Midwest climate and energy leadership, making the region a national and international leader in addressing climate change by achieving energy-related greenhouse emission reductions.

Image credit: Terry Kearney via CC