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Willmar power supplier shows interest in extending contract

WILLMAR -- Major power supplier Great River Energy is showing an interest in extending its power supply contract with Willmar Municipal Utilities beyond the 2015 expiration date.

GRE, which supplies over half of the electricity used by Willmar electrical customers, approached Willmar Utility officials earlier this year and asked if Willmar would be interested in buying some of GRE's extra power.

Up until that time, Willmar Utility officials had not received any such interest from GRE and had been spending much time gathering information, studying and discussing other power supply proposals.

Willmar is currently buying 30 megawatts of power from Great River Energy's Coal Creek Plant in North Dakota. The remaining amount is provided by other outside sources and by local generation.

"They approached us in the beginning of the year and said they have some extra energy and would we be interested,'' said Chris Carlson, Willmar power supply broker. "It was nice that they approached us.''

Carlson said GRE officials and Willmar Utility officials met a couple of weeks ago and discussed how many megawatts Willmar would want. Carlson requested time to study the proposal.

Carlson said Monday she is proposing to request 20 megawatts from GRE and is proposing either a 5-year contract or a 10-year contract. She proposed the 5-year contract because a 10-year contract carries a risk of higher rates due to possible carbon taxes on coal plants.

Carlson discussed the GRE developments with the Municipal Utilities Commission on Monday. The commission received Carlson's report as information.

Willmar is also studying power supply proposals from Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency's power supply coalition group and from Heartland Consumers Power District.

Carlson said Willmar Utility is working to make sure energy supplies are in place before the GRE contract runs out. She said Willmar's energy use continues to increase from 1½ to 2½ percent per year.

"And anything in the utility business has to be done years in advance,'' Carlson said. "It's kind of hard to read it immediately right now because we have a little bit of a recession and we had a couple of cold summers. But generally speaking it's still rising.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150