Your 2019 Director Candidates

The Connexus Energy 2019 Selection Committee nominated the following six candidates. The committee consisted of members of the cooperative residing throughout our service territory. No current Board members or employees served on the committee. The committee reviewed the qualifications and conducted in-person interviews with each member who applied to be a candidate.

The candidate profile and question responses are provided by the candidate, and it is their responsiblity to provide accurate information.

Director District 2

James Nelson, CPA

2053 128th Ave NW, Coon Rapids, MN 55448

James Nelson, CPA

Occupation
Finance & Administration Executive
Board Experience
None at this time
Post-Secondary Education
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire - Bachelor of Business Administration Degree - Double Major – Accounting & Business Finance

What experiences and abilities do you have that would be most important to 
contributing to the Connexus Energy Board of Directors?

“From an experience standpoint, I have 12+ years of progressive leadership experience across multiple industries with organizations of varying sizes. Having this experience has helped me develop strong abilities around communication, accountability, change management, strategic planning and business development. These abilities feed well because as a board member we are tasked with driving the culture, setting the tone and holding management accountable.”

Discuss two key opportunities that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“It’s difficult to list only two opportunities because it’s such an exciting and innovative time for the energy industry. As we look at using resources more efficiently and developing new technologies, cooperatives have a great foundation to drive and lead in this space.

The first opportunity is renewable energy. We read and hear this daily, but it is much more complicated than it seems. Connexus has really taken the step forward with solar gardens, battery storage and other new initiatives. We need to continue to drive towards green power because it is the future and we owe it to our members. However, thorough planning is key which means understanding the capital investment, operating costs, long-term implications and making sure it is a sustainable model.

The second opportunity is to continually innovate the way we interact, engage and connect with our 132,000+ members. It is important they are educated on the decisions we are making and that they are part of the governance process. Progress has been made in this area but we need to continue to make steps to cater to the ever changing needs of our members.”

Discuss two key challenges that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“Before addressing the key challenges I think it is important to note that all cooperatives, including Connexus, exist to serve their members. All decisions should be based on that “social contract” knowing that decisions are being made for the benefits of the member community. Again, Connexus has really done a great job of that as evidenced by keeping rates flat over multiple years while making investments in long-term sustainable energy solutions.

The first key challenge I see is to continue making investment in infrastructure, distributions systems and continuing to implement updated technologies. With the significant seasonality (as evidenced by this winter) of our state, it is imperative that our grids are reliable and can handle both the natural conditions and high usage rates. By continually updating the core operations it allows Connexus to keep its ongoing commitment to members and still invest in the long-term vision. As we continually become a more connected society it is imperative Connexus handle increasing member demand, energy efficiency and provide reliable service while keep costs contained.

The second key challenge is developing and adopting alternative energies. Connexus currently has 20% of our energy coming from renewable sources which is a great start. The two main sources of renewable energies utilized to this point are wind and solar. However, I think we can all agree that with the right planning and investment it is possible to keep rates reasonable and continue to invest in these as well as other energy solutions. Other energy solutions include biomass, hydrogen and fuel cells, geothermal and many more currently being developed.

Another key component is developing and adopting alternative energies is to engage our policy and regulation leaders at the local, state and national levels. In many cases policy can drive both intended and unintended consequences. To drive solutions we must be step in step with our regulators so that investment, compliance and long-term decisions are made with clear goals and objectives on the front end.”

Which of these four is the most important aspect of the electricity service Connexus Energy provides and why? (a) Affordability, (b) Reliability, (c) Member Service, (d) Percent Renewable

“Reliability is the most important aspect of the electric service Connexus Energy provides. If you were to look up the definition of the word reliability it is defined as the quality of being trustworthy or of performing consistently well. I think that definition sums it up. When we look at service such as internet, cell coverage, insurance, transportation, etc. isn’t reliability the most important aspect of that relationship?


What does affordability mean if the service is unreliable and long-term decisions are put aside to keep affordability in check in the short term? How can any business pretend to provide “customer service” if the product or service you are paying for is unreliable? While renewables are the future if they are not vetted and built on sustainable and reliable models it does a disservice to both the members and business. Put simply, reliability drives the other three aspects of affordability, member service and percent renewable.”

Which new technologies for the home or business are important and how should Connexus Energy assist members in their adoption?

“For homeowner’s taking small steps can really add up over time. As a current homeowner, I look to upgrade when replacement is needed or it makes sense as part of a larger remodeling project. Having a programmable or smart home thermostat is a simple solution that provides a quick payback by being able to save money on energy costs. It also gives you the flexibility when you are away from the house for longer periods of time to control the temperature.

When replacing larger systems such as air conditioners, furnace, refrigerators, washers/dryers, etc. moving up to the higher efficiency models provides cost savings through lower monthly bills that will save you money in the long run. In many cases, rebates are always a good incentive but if there was a monthly cost savings sharing model I think that could be great for members because they could see the difference on an ongoing basis.

From a business perspective, companies typically look at energy improvement and technology a bit differently because they include larger investments and longer payback periods. However, as a business leader, we are happy to make a larger investment upfront understanding the payback is still there are we are doing what is best for our community.

I also think education around rebates, tax credits, long-term savings, net metering, etc. could improve adoption as well. Working closely with home and businesses to understand all aspects (financial and non-financial) of these technologies is important because we are all motivated beyond just financial incentives. Finally, I think for homeowners and businesses that really push the boundaries and reduce consumption drastically should be recognized for their efforts. If we reward the behavior we desire then people will adapt to it over time.”

What is your view about participating in the political process (such as contacting your Congressional representatives) on behalf of the cooperative, if needed?

“I am all-in on participating in the political process. It is an extremely important part of the work Connexus performs daily. As I said earlier, change needs to happen beyond Connexus at the local, state and national levels. For instance, at the state level there are a number of committees in both the House or Representatives and state Senate among other state organizations that have input into our state’s energy policy. We need to be communicating and working with these groups to make sure they understand what is best for our communities. The energy industry is highly regulated and for Connexus to make the correct long-term investments there have to be clear and concise regulation that rewards those investments.”

Cooperatives seek to support and benefit the communities in which they serve. What is your perspective on this role for Connexus?

“Connexus touches over the 132,000+ members every day with the work we do. When you look at it from that perspective, it is an obligation to be an important partner to the communities we serve and have a strong relationship with our members. I support any way we can positively impact the community through partnership.”

What most motivates you to be a director for Connexus Energy?

“First, I think this is an exciting time for the energy industry and I would love to be a part of it. With my experience and knowledge, I can bring a great deal of value to Connexus and their members. I am not a yes person and will challenge the organization. I will also ensure that decisions are made in line with the company’s mission, vision and values.

Second, I was raised to give back to local organizations that benefit me and the ones I love. With young children myself, we need to make sure the beautiful communities we have today are there for the next generation. I hold myself to a high moral standard and would be honored to represent the community.”

Peter Wojciechowski - Incumbent

1360 Constance Boulevard NE, Ham Lake, MN 55304

Occupation
Semi-Retired
Board Experience
Connexus Energy Board of Directors (1977-Present)
Post-Secondary Education
Hamline University/University of Minnesota – Business
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Director Certifications - Board Leadership, Credentialed Director, and Director Gold

What experiences and abilities do you have that would be most important to contributing to the Connexus Energy Board of Directors?

“Knowledge gained at Hamline University and University of Minnesota with financial statements, in addition to experience owning my business and 30+ years serving on numerous boards and audit committees.

Involved in strategic planning during the last 40+ years with Connexus Energy, Minnesota Rural Electric Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Anoka County Library Board, Lions Club, and Zoning/Planning Committee.

Cooperative boards have fiduciary accountability for financial policies and strategies proposed and implemented by management. Years of experience and understanding of various financing sources like Rural Utility Service, CoBank, and Cooperative Finance Corporation, and governance participation in setting patronage capital return policies. Years of experience overseeing monthly financials, audit reviews, and publication of the annual report to members.”

Discuss two key opportunities that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“Power Supply – Our choices are changing fast. Connexus added 10MW solar power and 15MW battery storage in 2018, which saves our membership money. These projects offset purchases from our wholesale power supplier. We also began putting more tools in member’s hands to manage their own consumption. These are examples of some of the new technologies and practices that we must succeed in implementing.

Member Service Quality - Connexus has high member satisfaction measured by annual feedback surveys. Assure the utility maintains its standards and the board remains vigilant to members and what they want from their cooperative.

Regulation (State and Federal) - We are in a period of legislative and regulatory pressures on utilities. We must ensure the cooperative voice remains strong in Minnesota, and we support our statewide association’s efforts in Washington.”

Discuss two key challenges that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“Power Supply – Our choices are changing fast. Connexus added 10MW solar power and 15MW battery storage in 2018 and that saves our membership money. These projects offset purchases from our wholesale power supplier. We also began putting more tools in member’s hands to manage their own consumption. These are examples of some of the new technologies and practices that we must succeed in implementing.

Member Service Quality - Connexus Energy has high member satisfaction measured by annual feedback surveys. Assure the utility maintains its standards and as a board remains vigilant to members and what they want from their cooperative.

Regulation (State and Federal) - We are in a time period of legislative and regulatory pressures on utilities. We must ensure that the cooperative voice remains strong in Minnesota, and that we also support our statewide association’s efforts in Washington, D.C.”

Which of these four is the most important aspect of the electricity service Connexus Energy provides and why? (a) Affordability, (b) Reliability, (c) Member Service, (d) Percent Renewable

A) "Rates - two years no increases.

B) We are rated top in U.S.

C) Added many saving services for members.

D) Working on solar, wind, and new tech.

E) Safety for workers and members.”


Which new technologies for the home or business are important and how should Connexus Energy assist members in their adoption?

“Yes. We have done this with pilot programs on air conditioning. We offer Wi-Fi thermostats so that members have more control on their use. We piloted Peak Time Rebate last summer. Connexus has always helped members and these are the more recent examples.”

What is your view about participating in the political process (such as contacting your Congressional representatives) on behalf of the cooperative, if needed?

“This is an important part of our cooperative model. Working within the community. Building good relationships with our legislators who also are members. I have been lobbying for as many years I have been serving. 1) Local 2) State 3) National supporting ALL cooperatives.”

Cooperatives seek to support and benefit the communities in which they serve. What is your perspective on this role for Connexus?

“We have a strong program helping many in our communities. We budget for it yearly. We sponsor scholarships and donate dollars and time to many worthy community support non-profits. This is something all cooperatives do. Our track record is strong.”

What most motivates you to be a director for Connexus Energy?

“Working and supporting Connexus providing reliable and affordable electricity to satisfied members. I have been working with other boards to make sure we have strategies to keep Connexus the #1 cooperative in Minnesota and the U.S. I have served as chair during the years of many programs we now have in place and look forward to more of the same. I would ask for your support again to serve you.”

Director District 3

Shelly Peterson – Incumbent

18737 Krypton Street NW, Ramsey, MN 55303

Occupation
City of Champlin, Finance Director
Board Experience
Connexus Energy Board of Directors (2018-Present)
Anoka County Historical Society Board of Directors, Treasurer (2016-Present)
Post-Secondary Education
Bethel University, BA, Management
Anoka-Ramsey Community College, AA, General Studies

What experiences and abilities do you have that would be most important to contributing to the Connexus Energy Board of Directors?

“As a current board member appointed in 2018, I’ve gained valuable knowledge on Connexus Energy operations and initiatives. I’ve also spent my career as a civil servant. I’m currently a finance director for a local municipality where, like Connexus, I manage the funds of a not-for-profit entity. It’s my responsibility to be fiscally responsible with others money and make financial decisions that are for the greater good. With nearly 25 years experience managing utilities for cities, I understand what it takes to provide safe and reliable services. I also spent eight years managing a municipal electric utility. I have firsthand experience with electric utilities both as a manager and now as a board member. I understand and respect my role as a voice for the Connexus Energy membership.”

Discuss two key opportunities that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“The Connexus Energy cooperative has a responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint while keeping electricity affordable to its membership. More cutting-edge initiatives like the Solar Plus Storage project launched in 2018 need to be considered.

We also need to broaden opportunities for the membership to manage their own electric usage. Reducing usage can be more than just insulation and energy efficient appliances. Connexus needs to continue developing innovative initiatives that give its membership the tools they need to manage their own usage. This includes empowering users to monitor their usage through their smart meter, developing programs to allow for solar plus storage in homes and businesses, along with creating a charging station infrastructure within the Connexus Energy service area.”

Discuss two key challenges that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“Energy conservation is not only a mandated responsibility of the cooperative, it’s a moral obligation. The challenge Connexus Energy will continue to have is providing innovative solutions while keeping utility rates affordable to its membership. This can’t happen without continually challenging the norm and implementing new ideas.

Connexus Energy must stay on top of customer needs. This is more than just exceptional customer service. It’s providing new programs and products designed to give customers control of their energy usage and allow them to take advantage of new technologies. Connexus Energy must continue to stay relevant and implement cost effective programs and initiatives it’s membership is demanding.”

Which of these four is the most important aspect of the electricity service Connexus Energy provides and why? (a) Affordability, (b) Reliability, (c) Member Service, (d) Percent Renewable

“Reliability. Electricity is a part of our everyday lives. It’s more than just lights. Electricity has become essential to all the appliances, equipment and technology in our homes and businesses. Reliability of this essential service is first and foremost for Connexus Energy.”

Which new energy technologies for the home or business are important and how should Connexus Energy assist members in their adoption?

“Connexus Energy recently completed a meter replacement initiative that brought smart metering into our homes and businesses. This is just one tool in many that put control into the hands of the membership. Connexus must continue to find ways to educate the membership on how smart metering can benefit them. Smart metering, smart thermostats and any new technology that puts control of electric usage into the hands of the customer needs to be continually explored, implemented and promoted.

Connexus Energy is an industry leader on using batteries to store solar energy. The energy is stored and used when demand is at its highest. This initiative not only provides a green alternative to generating energy, it will save the cooperative millions in the cost of purchasing energy during peak times. Connexus needs to continue exploring this technology and developing solutions its memberships can use to bring their individual costs down while doing their part to reduce our carbon footprint.”

What is your view about participating in the political process (such as contacting your Congressional representatives) on behalf of the cooperative, if needed?

“Connexus Energy is not privately owned and therefore not driven by profit. As a board member, I strongly feel that we have an obligation to speak on behalf of the membership at all levels of government. This could be voicing our concerns with mandates or discussing the challenges we face in providing affordable and reliable electric to our membership.”

Cooperatives seek to support and benefit the communities in which they serve. What is your perspective on this role for Connexus Energy?

“What makes a cooperative great is its membership. Working together and supporting the communities we all belong to only strengthens our membership. In my experience working in local government, I’ve learned that by working together with organizations, communities and local utility services, everyone can benefit.

By working collaboratively with our communities we can promote economic development, improve infrastructures and make our communities attractive places to call home or grow our businesses.”

What most motivates you to be a director for Connexus Energy?

“I have spent my career managing finances of communities and not that of investors. I want to take the skills I’ve learned and put them to use representing a cooperative I’ve been a part of for nearly my entire life. Connexus Energy is a leader in member-owned utilities. It's a privilege to serve as a board member for a cooperative that continues to challenge itself and not be content with status quo.”

Marsha Van Denburgh

3270 206 Ave NW, Oak Grove, MN 55303

Occupation
Small Business Owner
Board Experience
St. Francis Area Schools-ISD 15 School Board (2009-2018)
Minnesota Legislative Salary Council (2016-2020)
American Indian Parent Advisory Committee (2006-2019)
Post-Secondary Education
Minnesota Assoc of School Boards – Leadership Trainings
St. Cloud State University – Bachelor of Science in Mass Comm
Miami University – Associate of Arts in Mass Comm

Minnesota Dept of Human Services – 245D license

What experiences and abilities do you have that would be most important to contributing to the Connexus Energy Board of Directors?

“First of all, I was honored to be recently approved by the Connexus 2019 Director Candidate Selection Committee to run for this position.

Two of the main responsibilities of a Connexus Energy Director are setting budgets and making policy. I have worked with budgets of $50 - $100 million as a school board director for the past nine years and as a member of the Minnesota Legislative Salary Council. I understand the complexities of budgeting. My work included extensive policy writing on subjects varying from personnel to finance giving me a breadth of knowledge that will be advantageous to the Connexus Energy member-owner cooperative. In addition, through my community involvement, I have developed relationships with many legislators across Minnesota.”

Discuss two key opportunities that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“As one of the largest electric cooperative in the U.S., Connexus Energy has a huge opportunity to lead in reducing carbon emissions by providing energy through renewable sources. Cleanest is cheapest! The current solar battery storage system that is operating is reducing costs of peak energy purchased. As renewable sources of energy expand, costs can be reduced and reliability increased. As a small business owner myself, this is important!

As utilities have cut their reliance on coal power, carbon emissions have diminished. Yet, carbon emissions from vehicles must be cut. The growing electric vehicle industry provides reliable transportation by increasing the use of electricity. Thus, Connexus will sell more electric energy, with over-night re-charging, which is better for our environment. I am asking for your vote today. Thank you.”

Discuss two key challenges that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“Thank you for taking the time to read this online information today.

Connexus Energy will be faced with changing over to electricity generation from fossil fuels to all renewable sources. Currently, the system is dependent on electricity production from fossil fuels. That is rapidly becoming obsolete. Minnesota is moving toward 100% clean energy through renewable sources such as solar and wind. A priority for Connexus Energy will be the total reduction of fossil fuel electricity production. Cleanest is cheapest! It’s important to keep down the cost of electricity.

Cyber security must be at the forefront of all that Connexus Energy does. Utilities are a prime target for hackers. The grid must be kept reliable and affordable. It will be of absolute importance to keep electricity consistently flowing to all member-owners. As more member/owners choose to produce their own electricity, this will allow for more reliability of the grid. With production being spread across many households, there is less possibility of a wide scale loss of power via hackers who look to disable the electrical grid. Connexus Energy will need to employ the best of the best in information technology to keep the company safe from any disabling attacks. The constant training and education of all staff will be paramount to keeping electricity transmission safe from harm.”

Which of these four is the most important aspect of the electricity service Connexus Energy provides and why? (a) Affordability, (b) Reliability, (c) Member Service, (d) Percent Renewable

“Reliability – The peace of mind that results from not worrying about interrupted electricity is the most important aspect of the service Connexus Energy provides.

As I write this, the polar vortex of January 2019 remains quite vivid in my mind. During that time, I knew families negatively affected by the natural gas delivery reductions and shut downs in some homes. Many are still very frustrated by the problems this presented to them.

Connexus Energy must provide reliable electric energy to their member-owners, so that such a scenario never happens.

Increased reliability will enhance the already excellent product from Connexus Energy. As renewables produce more and more of the electricity, the reliability of Connexus Energy will increase.

Electricity use is going to continue to grow. More people will be driving electric vehicles. Connexus Energy has a huge opportunity to be on the fore front of reliable, innovative, renewable electricity production. Having just been intimately involved in a school district for nine years, I can see a huge possibility of electric buses. The lack of fumes from diesel, the opportunity to generate stored energy during the summer off peak bus use, and the reduction of carbon emissions makes electric buses an incredible choice for our Member-Owner school districts.

Increasing reliability will draw more people to live in the Connexus Energy territory and bring more businesses here. As a small business owner, the reliability of electricity encouraged me to build a new storage building in the Connexus territory. There are so many positives to making reliability the main priority for Connexus Energy.”

Which new energy technologies for the home or business are important and how should Connexus Energy assist members in their adoption?

“Homeowners can control most everything from their smart phones. They can turn on their lights remotely. They can check on their thermostats and hot water heaters. This smart technology increases constantly. Connexus Energy should encourage the use of these apps. People can become more aware of their peak electricity usage and cut back at certain times. Incentives for reduced use of peak energy to member/owners should be increased. It is a way to educate member/owners about their peak usage and how to keep their costs as low as possible.

Connexus Energy can begin to assist member/owners to use electrical appliances more through rebates. New water heater on demand systems can reduce energy consumption. As propane and fuel oil heating systems are updated with cleaner electricity powered heating systems, Connexus Energy can be a leader in the community with incentives to use these lower polluting reliable options.”

What is your view about participating in the political process (such as contacting your Congressional representatives) on behalf of the cooperative, if needed?

“I absolutely want to be involved with legislative initiatives both locally, statewide and nationally. I have developed strong personal relationships with state representatives and senators. It is hugely important for Connexus Energy Directors to cultivate relationships legislatively. When and if a new law is needed, those relationships are key to getting laws passed that will benefit the Member-Owners.”

Cooperatives seek to support and benefit the communities in which they serve. What is your perspective on this role for Connexus Energy?

“I have been actively involved in the community for years. I always read about Connexus Energy’s scholarship winners. It is an excellent program that allows Connexus to be involved in the community. Over the years, Connexus Energy has had a safety presentation on electricity for local schools. This is a huge benefit to our area. There are many excellent opportunities for Connexus Energy to be involved in the community, since it is a Member-Owner cooperative. Bringing exhibits and presentations to local community groups and schools on the many benefits of electricity, low carbon emissions and renewables can benefit communities across the Connexus Energy territory.”

What most motivates you to be a director for Connexus Energy?

“I was honored to be recently approved by the Connexus 2019 Director Candidate Selection Committee. It is an exciting time to be involved in the electric energy industry. Currently, energy is a rapidly changing frontier. As renewables have become the least expensive producer of electricity, the industry has many opportunities for change.
I see my friends and neighbors relying on out dated propane and fuel oil systems that can be updated with carbon friendly systems costing them less. With our aging society, the need for cheaper energy is paramount while living on a fixed income.
I want to be a part of helping my neighbors reduce their energy costs and carbon foot print.

For twenty years, I did foster care in Anoka County. I had about 100 children in my home for varying amounts of time. I adopted seven of them. I see the struggles their families had paying their electricity bills. I would like to be a part of helping low income families be able to pay their bills more easily. There are federal incentive grant programs available which Connexus Energy should be accessing for member-owners.

I also think of my children now as they are almost all young adults working and beginning to raise families of their own. I want them to have the cleanest most reliable energy possible.

I believe my experience on boards with policy and large budgets makes me an excellent choice to lead Connexus Energy into the future. My community relationships and caring attitude will help to achieve much.

Today, I’m asking for your vote! Thanks!”

Director District 4

Brad Blue

18999 180 Avenue NW, Big Lake, MN 55309

Occupation
Director of Program Design, Design & InnoVation Lab
Board Experience
308 Charter Collaborative Cooperative (2017-Present)
Northeast Art & Science Polytechnic (2014-2019)
Minnesota Guild (2010-2018)
Post-Secondary Education
We Own It, Electric Cooperative Fellowship
King’s College, Ph. D, Epigraphy/Archaeology
Wheaton College Graduate School, M.A., Epigraphy/Archaeology
Wheaton College, B.A., Liberal Arts

What experiences and abilities do you have that would be most important to contributing to the Connexus Energy Board of Directors?

“As a fellow member-owner of our cooperative, I bring 25 years of extensive board and leadership experience that have required strong governance and fiscal responsibility. I am knowledgeable about emerging technologies that will increase the reliability and quality of electricity service, while maintaining reasonable costs to members.

Member and community engagement are very important to me. As a fellow member-owner of Connexus Energy, I participate in community events and programs including Electric Vehicle Drive, Revolt, and Power Over Time. As a community member, I contribute by serving on boards, volunteering, and coaching - soccer, hockey, lacrosse, basketball, and robotics teams.”

As a member-owner, I am honored to be nominated by the Connexus Energy Director Candidate Selection Committee.”

Discuss two key opportunities that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“The primary challenge of Connexus Energy is to integrate new technologies and innovation that will provide higher quality, secure, and reliable service to the co-op member-owners at a reasonable cost.

The second challenge is addressing our memberships’ commitment to sustainable and affordable energy generation. As new technologies evolve, we will have opportunities to increase the quality and reliability of services while decreasing costs to member-owners. Renewable energy is becoming cheaper and higher performing and is increasingly becoming powered by low-cost wind and solar energy. Related, Connexus Energy must integrate solar-plus-battery storage and time-shift energy so that we have reliable and affordable electricity. This generation and storage option should be available to all customers, residential and commercial. Cleanest energy is now the cheapest energy.

As a fellow member-owner, I appreciate your vote. Thank you."

Discuss two key challenges that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“Connexus Energy must adopt technologies that increase reliability and at the same time decrease costs to the member-owners. Specifically, recent power outages across the utility grids have challenged the infrastructures and frustrated customers. Upgrading technologies so that the grid is secure/safe, dependable, cleaner, and at the same time cheaper for the member-owners is possible and essential.

Second, as the largest electric cooperative in Minnesota, Connexus Energy must influence the decisions to generate renewable energy. The benefits of renewable energy are significant: it is cleaner, more affordable, improves health, well-being, and our natural environment. In order to be competitive in the marketplace, Connexus Energy must expand the adoption of renewable energy and accelerate leadership in the clean energy economy.”

Which of these four is the most important aspect of the electricity service Connexus Energy provides and why? (a) Affordability, (b) Reliability, (c) Member Service, (d) Percent Renewable

“Renewable energy is only becoming cheaper and higher performing and is increasingly becoming powered by low-cost wind and solar energy. Renewable energy is MORE AFFORDABLE. Lower costs, cleaner environments, and increased reliability are factors that should drive the decisions by Connexus Energy. Rather than investing time and resources into unneeded fossil-fuel infrastructure and energy that negatively impacts our health and the environment, Connexus Energy should speed the transition to renewable energy.

Renewables also provide Energy Freedom and related jobs and services. Wind power is a boon for local economies, employing more than 3,000 people in Minnesota. And renewable energy farms pay roughly $14 million a year to Minnesota counties for roads and schools. Clean-energy investments create jobs for builders, technicians, engineers, clerical employees, and maintenance workers. And the energy is produced in Minnesota.”

Which new energy technologies for the home or business are important and how should Connexus Energy assist members in their adoption?

“SMART houses consume less energy and save member-owners money. Therefore, Connexus Energy has the opportunity to promote a variety of SMART technologies, including thermostats. Even more significant cost savings can be captured through robust energy efficiency programs at NO ADDITIONAL COST to member-owners. Ultra-efficient homes and buildings, climate-controlled with air source heat pumps - even on the coldest of days - are possible. These upgrades improve the quality of our lives, preserve Minnesota’s clean air and water WITHOUT INCREASING the cost of energy to member-owners.

As an electric cooperative, Connexus Energy has the unique opportunity to participate in a tariffed on-bill program based on Pay As You Save® (PAYS®). The program funds cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades and reaches market segments that often face barriers to money-saving investments, such as renters, members with poor credit, municipal governments, and businesses with limited access to capital. Access to these funds could generate $60 million of upgrades to local homes and businesses, fueling economic development across the trades. And again, these efficiency upgrades improve the quality of our lives while stimulating the economy, without increasing the cost of energy to member-owners. As a future Connexus Energy board member, I would encourage Connexus to implement the PAYS® program.

In 2017 the University of Minnesota released a study - Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities - projecting that solar+storage would be more cost competitive than a natural gas peaker plant in 2018! New solar-plus-battery storage technologies have proven to effectively reduce energy costs and at the same time make delivery of energy more reliable by offsetting peak demand. Connexus Energy should continue and strengthen its partnerships with Fresh Energy and the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab to develop and deploy micro (residential) and macro scale solar energy generation plus battery storage options.

Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) were a greater percentage of all new car sales in 2018, comprising over two percent of all light-duty vehicle sales in the United States, and a nearly six percent share of the passenger car market. In 2019, electric vehicles are projected to make up four to five percent of light-duty vehicle sales and over ten percent for passenger cars. Connexus Energy has unique opportunities to promote and support this inevitable trend:

  • Provide incentives for EV Time-of-Day (TOD) Programs (encourage Off-Peak).
  • Promote the Great River Energy Revolt program (100% wind/renewable) for charge EVs.
  • Provide incentives for the purchase of EVs.
  • As early as possible, convert all Connexus Energy fleet cars and trucks to EV.
  • Develop a comprehensive Education, Training, and Information Program, fulfilling the The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Co-op Principle: Educating and training members, elected representatives (directors/trustees), CEOs, and employees.
  • Build partnerships with some of the 9,300 Commercial and Industrial owner-members to create infrastructures to support EV charging.

What is your view about participating in the political process (such as contacting your congressional representatives) on behalf of the cooperative, if needed?

“Participation in the political process is important although not always easy. Fortunately, as Minnesotans, we have a legacy of collaborating to reach consensus. I am committed to the collaborative effort and have engaged in efforts to shape legislation that promotes the health and well-being of our families and communities. As a future Connexus Energy board member, I will engage stakeholders and contribute to conversations in the political process.

Energy generation and transmission requires careful thought, especially in light of global greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. In the past three years, we have seen sweeping changes to energy, transportation and other systems that have a significant impact on policy and our future. Last year, Xcel Energy (Minnesota’s largest investor owned electric utility) publicly committed to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Currently, Minnesota policymakers are introducing legislation that would set Minnesota on a path to transform our state’s energy system into one that is carbon free: meeting an 80 percent renewable energy standard by 2035, and 100 percent carbon free electricity by 2050.

Connexus Energy must join other Minnesota leaders by continuing to work toward meeting the historic challenge presented by climate change. As a future board member, I would enthusiastically support this critical step for Minnesota. This means working together with utilities and stakeholders to ensure (as member-owners of Connexus Energy), that we build a clean energy future that works for all Minnesotans.”

Cooperatives seek to support and benefit the communities in which they serve. What is your perspective on this role for Connexus Energy?

“Cooperatives should operate according to the same set of core principles and values that were adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance. These principles are a key reason that America’s electric cooperatives operate differently from other electric utilities, putting the needs of their members first. One of the Seven Cooperative Principles is Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies supported by the member-owners. As a member-owner, I am committed to this Principle. As a future Connexus Energy board member, I am committed to aligning all of the work of Connexus Energy to the Principles.”

What most motivates you to be a director for Connexus Energy?

“Recently, CURE’s Minnesota Local Energy Project produced the Rural Electric Co-op Report Card so that member-owners have access to more and better information about co-ops they own. Regrettably, the Connexus Energy board did not meet the standards for good board governance and transparency.

Rural Electric Co-ops (REC) were created as a part of the New Deal in the 1930s to bring electricity to rural communities across the country. In the beginning, all REC member-owners had a voice in the operation and oversight of their electric utility and the information necessary to do so. This democratic control was central to how rural electric co-ops worked.

However, many co-ops have lost their direction. Co-op member-owners can’t easily access the information necessary to be fully involved in decision-making. Democratic values and member-owner input no longer seem to be central in the operation of RECs. Entrenched boards and co-op leadership have co-ops stuck in the old energy system reliant on dirty, expensive electricity – including being coerced into signing 60+ year coal-generated electricity contracts. Opportunities for energy efficiency, clean energy policy, and member-owned renewable energy are often missed.

I am committed to the NRECA Co-op Principles and improving the governance of Connexus Energy. When member-owners take back their own power in RECs we’ve seen an immediate shift towards the electric utility of the future. This effort is especially important because Connexus Energy is the largest electric co-op in Minnesota (133,000 member-owners and $450 MILLION in assets) and has considerable influence on how electricity is generated and how well member-owners are served.”

Kenneth Fiereck – Incumbent

10064 92nd Avenue, Clear Lake, MN 55319

Kenneth Fiereck

Occupation
Retired
Board Experience
Connexus Energy (2004-Present)
Minnesota Rural Electric Association (2015-Present)
Post-Secondary Education
St. Cloud State University - Chemistry
University of Minnesota - Chemistry
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association - Continuing Education - Credentialed Cooperative Director Certificate

What experiences and abilities do you have that would be most important to contributing to the Connexus Energy Board of Directors?

“I have 40 years of experience in the electric utility industry with cooperatives and investor-owned utilities. Being a Credentialed Director, along with continuing education, has given me the skills and knowledge to make prudent business decisions that will serve the members best interest. With dedicated staff and directors, we have provided members with the lowest electric rates in the region. As you are aware, we have not had a rate increase in the past two years, while still providing stellar electric service to our members.

Thank you for your vote and the privilege to serve as your Director of Connexus Energy.”

Discuss two key opportunities that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“The development of environmentally-friendly energy through solar and battery storage. The development of battery storage is key to maximizing peak demand. The other component is AMI, automated meter reading, which has given data to identify member usage, identify outages, and investigate theft of energy. These system improvements also have contributed to not having to raise rates for the past two years.”

Discuss two key challenges that you foresee affecting Connexus Energy in the next several years, and how should they be addressed?

“The two major challenges facing Connexus Energy are regulatory environment and incorporating emerging technology into delivering reliable, affordable electricity. Under discussion legislatively is how fast to make electricity supply carbon-free. Connexus Energy and Great River Energy, our power supplier, are making significant progress. In addition, as the grid changes, all members want the reliability they expect at an affordable rate despite the generation mix. I believe recent projects like solar + storage are showing this is possible to achieve.”

Which of these four is the most important aspect of the electricity service Connexus Energy provides and why? (a) Affordability, (b) Reliability, (c) Member Service, (d) Percent Renewable

“Affordability, reliability, member service, and percent renewables should not be prioritized. All are important and must be achieved and integrated into one product. That product must be a product of excellence for all members. By not singling out one component, Connexus Energy has earned the J.D. Power Award of Excellence."

Which new energy technologies for the home or business are important and how should Connexus Energy assist members in their adoption?

“The use of smart home devices and renewable energy offered to members by Connexus Energy has changed home usage of electricity. Programmable systems and LED bulbs, along with home monitoring systems, and even eventually electric vehicles, which directly relates to members saving money on their electricity bills for homes and businesses. Agribusinesses also uses smart technology in the production of food for the United States and globally. I believe the Connexus Energy staff must have expertise in these emerging solutions and respond to members that have questions.”

What is your view about participating in the political process (such as contacting your congressional representatives) on behalf of the cooperative, if needed?

“Cooperatives have two organizations monitoring legislation that is proposed at state and national levels.

MREA (Minnesota Rural Electric Association) is the local voice to state government. I am currently on the Board of Directors at MREA and participate in setting policy for Minnesota cooperatives. This organization also supports updating and training opportunities to Minnesota cooperatives.

NRECA, National Rural Electric Association, has the pulse of national legislation effecting electric cooperatives. As a Connexus Energy Director, we also reach out to our representatives and senators to keep them informed of our needs.”

Cooperatives seek to support and benefit the communities in which they serve. What is your perspective on this role for Connexus Energy?

“Connexus Energy is continually striving to give back to our communities we serve through community giving. Numerous donations are made to food shelves and other nonprofit community services. Each year scholarships are given to high school seniors throughout the service area. Even more important, board members and staff are involved with community organizations. This is what cooperatives do and makes us different from other kinds of utilities.”

What most motivates you to be a director for Connexus Energy?

“My motivation as a Connexus Energy board member is serving our members and communities by doing my very best to keep the rates affordable and the delivery of reliable uninterrupted energy to every member in our service area.”