PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER (six-year term)
QUESTION: What should be PSC priorities regarding siting and operation of renewable energy-generation facilities, such as wind farms?
BRANDT: The directives and the purpose of the N.D. PSC regarding energy conversion and transmission facilities, as statutorily charged in NDCC Chapter 49-22, are very clear. The PSC is to ensure that the location, construction and operation of said facilities will produce minimal adverse effects on the environment and upon the welfare of state citizens. The facilities must also ensure that energy needs are met and fulfilled in an orderly and timely fashion. Just and fair rates are a part of the “welfare of the citizens.”
I am very supportive of renewable energy as part of our electric power generation mix, but everyone must realize that at this time these renewables come at a higher cost and they are not reliable 24/7.
We need reliable and affordable baseload generation to support the renewable energy, which we have with our North Dakota coal-fired power generation. Until commercial, high-capacity storage is available, within economies of scale, we must be very careful in renewable sitings or we will jeopardize the resiliency of the grid, causing massive power failures, systemwide.
I support continued clean coal generation, to back our renewables and to affordably and reliably fulfill the electric power needs of all N.D. citizens.
North Dakota needs an independent voice who understands and makes these and other decisions based on her background, education, working knowledge and grassroots common sense. I will make all decisions putting the welfare of our citizens and protection of our lands first and foremost.
CHRISTMANN: As long as wind energy is subsidized as heavily as it is by the federal government, the development will continue. In response to that reality, the PSC has several responsibilities.
I continue to emphasize to policymakers, regional transmission organizations, utility companies and the public the perils of becoming too dependent on intermittent energy sources at the expense of traditional baseload sources. We must not allow our energy grid to rely so heavily on weather-dependent sources that the system becomes unreliable. That balance is continually monitored.
It is also a PSC priority to make sure that when wind development happens, it is in accordance with the laws and policies of the state of North Dakota as approved by the Legislature. This occurs through the siting process, just like other jurisdictional energy infrastructure projects.
The Commission has also begun to require light mitigation technology to minimize the impact of aircraft warning lights to our beautiful North Dakota night sky, but this will only become effective when approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
We are also the first regulatory body in the nation to require wind farm decommissioning plans and financial assurances to make sure the decommissioning plans are followed. This was one of my first priorities when I ran for the Commission, a promise made and a promise kept. These new rules ensure that when these projects ultimately and inevitably become obsolete, the lights will be shut off and the landscape will be cleared.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER (unexpired two-year term)
QUESTION: In North Dakota, electric cooperatives serve and protect consumer-member interests through self-governance. What is your view of this approach to assuring rate and services fairness to cooperative consumer members?
BUCHMANN: I am a strong supporter of electric cooperatives. Cooperatives are intended to be nonprofit entities, providing a service, rather than for-profit businesses.
As self-governed entities, cooperatives are accountable to their members and stakeholders, and make decisions based on the needs of their consumers. This makes them a more equitable solution to power supply. Through self-governance, stakeholders also are given a voice over who makes decisions, rather than being beholden to industry leaders who make decisions based on profits.
Electric cooperatives began in the 1930s and 1940s as a product of progressive ideas from the New Deal Era. They prove that government and the business can work together in the nonprofit sector for the good of all people.
Since the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 and the Electric Cooperative Corporation Act of 1937, everyday people have banded together to provide better services than the investor-owned power companies could ever dream of supplying. This allowed rural residents to access high-quality, affordable power service, and we need to continue working with both investor-owned companies and cooperatives to provide consumers with the best options to meet their needs.
This progressive idea is thriving across North Dakota, creating jobs and assuring affordable rates and service fairness to all of its cooperative members. Cooperatives ensure ALL the members reap the benefits of the cooperative – unlike the investor-owned power companies where only the investors reap the benefits of its consumers.
If elected, I will continue to advocate for cooperatives as a member of the Public Service Commission.
KROSHUS: Rural electric cooperatives have a rich history in our state, dating back to the mid-1930s when the Rural Electrification Act was introduced and passed. To this day, they play an incredibly important role in serving North Dakota.
Still, cooperatives constantly face the same challenge regardless of governing structure – providing safe, reliable service to customers at a fair price.
The energy marketplace continues to evolve and change. Adapting to change and addressing critical needs isn’t easy. It can only be effectively met when it begins with an understanding of the local market. Because of that, who better to meet customer needs than by those chosen by their peers and living, working and raising families in the same communities and cooperatives they serve.
Simply put, the cooperative principle works is because it is member-driven.
From growing up on a farm to the present as the owner of a cattle and grain operation in western North Dakota, I’m a proud cooperative member. I continue to personally rely on reliable, affordable rural electric cooperative service to meet the needs of my own agricultural operation.
North Dakota’s rural electric cooperatives should be proud of their commitment, forward-thinking approach and for serving our state so well. You have and continue to be a part of the unique fabric that makes North Dakota special.
Thank you for the privilege to serve you in my role as Public Service Commissioner. Above all, thank you to all rural electric cooperatives and consumer members for everything you do.