Midwest’s Largest Cooperative Electric Utility joins the ranks of Apple, Nvidia, and more.

Ramsey, Minn. (March 19, 2024) — Connexus Energy has been named to Fast Company’s prestigious list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2024. Ranked #4 in the Energy category, Connexus Energy is Minnesota’s largest member-owned nonprofit electric cooperative.

This year’s list shines a spotlight on businesses that are shaping industry and culture through their innovations. These organizations are setting new standards and achieving remarkable milestones in all sectors of the economy. Alongside the World's 50 Most Innovative Companies, Fast Company recognizes 606 organizations across 58 sectors and regions.

“For our members, leveraging innovation and continuous improvement to provide affordable, reliable, and increasingly sustainable electric service is just what we do,” said Sidney Jackson, president and chief executive officer of Connexus Energy. “Our entire team is delighted for this national recognition of our commitment to Connexus members.”

In the award’s 16 years, only four electric utilities have previously been named to the list: Portland General Electric, PG&E, Exelon, and Green Mountain Power. Connexus Energy is the first consumer-owned electric utility to be recognized on the list. Since the award’s inception, just nine other Minnesota companies have been named, including Target, Cargill, Polaris, Prime Therapeutics, and Puris. The remaining four include two med-tech companies, a cybersecurity firm, and robotics company.

The electric industry is not widely recognized for shields-down innovation. Connexus leverages innovation to maintain excellence on affordability and reliability among other measures. On affordability, after five years of no rate increases, Connexus adopted a 2023 budget with the lowest rate increase among Minnesota’s large utilities, just 2.9%, and, in 2024, the board of directors adopted a budget with no general rate increase. On reliability, Connexus achieved its fifth consecutive year in the top five percent of all electric utilities nationwide, and, in 2023, top one percent.

By the most important measures, Connexus is an innovative, high-performing cooperative electric utility. Connexus leadership, and culture it inspires throughout the organization, is generating a growing list of accomplishments that benefit the cooperative’s members:

  • Prior to 2023, Connexus was contractually limited to generate just five percent of the electricity it provides. A breakthrough contractual innovation, effective Jan. 1, 2023, eliminated the five percent limit, enabling Connexus with 100 percent flexibility and full responsibility to accelerate deployment of cost-effective resources, including solar and storage locally sited in the communities it serves.
  • Connexus is first among cooperative utilities in the commercial application of megawatt-class battery storage, with extensive experience integrating solar and storage into the distribution grid. According to a recent Minnesota Department of Commerce report, Connexus manages 93% of all the battery storage capacity statewide and 18% of the battery storage capacity in the 15-state MISO region. In 2023, Connexus broke ground on its next battery storage project—Minnesota’s first example of co-locating a battery with a substation.
  • Connexus manages 40-75 megawatts of heterogenous load dexterity (aka “Virtual Power Plants”) utilizing innovative approaches such as dynamic voltage reduction and a behavioral demand response program that pays members to voluntarily conserve energy during times of peak load. In 2023, these distribution-sited resources were aggregated and bid back into the regional MISO market as load modifying resources to assist with peaks on the bulk grid.
  •  In 2023, Connexus completed the second year of its 10-year commitment to underground powerlines for more than 400 properties per year and pursuit of Federal grants to do even more. Today, more than two-thirds of Connexus Energy’s grid—6,000 miles—is underground.
  • Also in 2023, Connexus initiated the Solar-HERO research project with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to demonstrate accelerated service restoration by leveraging distributed energy resources.
  • In 2022, Connexus was selected as the only utility in the Midwest to host a U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy Innovation Fellow. Analytics on the necessary grid upgrades for EV load growth paired with additional neighborhood-level rooftop solar analytics and advanced modeling, validated the utility’s strategy of strongly supporting rooftop solar into the future. Interconnection of new rooftop systems are completed in an average of five days.
  • Connexus introduced an annual Value of Membership Report, mailing each member a personalized summary, showing their usage, program savings, and power interruptions from the past year—a unique effort in the utility industry. And the utility offers a simple two-tier monthly subscription for EV refueling and $500 rebate for Level 2 chargers.
  • Since 2014 Connexus has required the multi-acre solar facilities developed in its territory to maintain pollinator-friendly ground cover throughout the array area. To further strengthen the cooperative’s social license to build additional solar and storage facilities in the communities it serves, Connexus completed a portfolio of innovations in 2023 including:
    • Launched “Solar Farmland Access for Emerging Farmers” demonstration projects to document the safe and scalable practices that will enable emerging farmers to grow hand-harvested vegetables inside the fence of existing and future solar arrays. Minnesota is the first state in the nation to have an Office of Emerging Farmers within the state Department of Agriculture.
    • Partnered with Argonne National Lab to place acoustic monitors at our existing pollinator-friendly solar arrays then record and analyze more than 6,000 hours of audio, identifying more than 47,000 unique bird songs from 23 species—the first study of its kind showing that birds can benefit from solar farms designed to benefit wildlife.

The World's Most Innovative Companies stands as Fast Company's hallmark franchise and one of its most anticipated editorial efforts of the year.

Fast Company's editors and writers identified the companies driving progress around the world and across industries, evaluating thousands of submissions through a competitive application process. The result is a globe-spanning guide to innovation today, from early-stage startups to some of the most valuable companies in the world. Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies package is available online and on newsstands beginning March 26.

“Our list of the Most Innovative Companies is both a comprehensive look at the innovation economy and a snapshot of the business trends that defined the year,” said Fast Company editor-in-chief Brendan Vaughan. “We saw extraordinary innovation across the board in 2023, but we also saw a handful of clear patterns: the growing footprint and impact of AI, the triumphant return of live events, and great leaps forward in climate tech. We face daunting challenges on many fronts, but the solutions we celebrate in MIC give me plenty of hope about the future.”



Founded in 1937 as one of the nation’s first 100 electric cooperatives, Connexus Energy is the Midwest's largest consumer-owned electric cooperative and has been nationally recognized for its “perfect power” service reliability, grid innovation, and solar land-use practices. Learn more at ConnexusEnergy.com.



Fast Company is the only media brand fully dedicated to the vital intersection of business, innovation, and design, engaging the most influential leaders, companies, and thinkers on the future of business. Headquartered in New York City, Fast Company is published by Mansueto Ventures LLC, along with our sister publication Inc., and can be found online at www.fastcompany.com.


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