A group of 14 high school students from throughout South Dakota participated in the 2022 Youth Excursion to visit Basin Electric Power Cooperative and learn how electricity is produced and distributed. Jamie Houston (left) of White Lake and Evelyn Olson (right) of Pukwana were selected to attend for Central Electric.
The group’s schedule of events included a tour of Basin Electric headquarters (Bismarck, N.D.), one of the nation’s largest generators of electricity serving more than three million homes, businesses and farms across nine states.
During the headquarters tour, Basin CEO Todd Telesz spoke to the students and explained how the organization was created by a group of electric distribution cooperatives in 1961 and has grown into a mammoth power generator with more than $7 billion in assets.
The students were curious about current industry issues such as nuclear energy, renewable power, career choices, electric vehicles and more.
“We’re keeping pace with the rapid changes that are taking place in the electric utility industry,” he said, “but you and your generation are going to be the ones who have to provide the leadership to make sure the electricity we need continues to be safe, accessible, affordable and environmentally responsible.”
Telesz also touched on the key differences between electric cooperatives and other types of businesses.
“Our members are our owners and they determine the long-term success of their cooperative,” he said. “The members vote for those individuals who will represent them on the board, and the board members also belong to the cooperative. So, everybody at every level of the organization has a vested interest in providing safe, reliable power.”
Telesz closed by mentioning the many career paths available in the electric energy sector, including engineering, finance, cybersecurity, renewable technology and many more. Several Basin Electric staff members were on hand to answer specific questions about the organization and the power industry.
The students also traveled to Beulah, N.D., to tour the Antelope Valley Station power plant, the Freedom Coal Mine and Dakota Gasification Co.
They also explored the Bismarck State College campus and stopped at the National Energy Center of Excellence where they participated in a safe driving simulation and learned how electricity is moved from a generation facility across the regional power grid by regional transmission operators.
The institution offers degrees and certifications in energy-related careers such as power generation technology, nuclear power technology, electrical transmission systems technology and others.
The students were sponsored by nine electric distribution cooperatives, and the event was organized by the South Dakota Rural Electric Association (SDREA) based in Pierre.
“Electric cooperatives are committed not only to providing safe, affordable power, but also to providing opportunities to educate our future leaders,” said event organizer Jocelyn Johnson of SDREA. “We need to make sure our young people have an understanding of where their power comes from and the complexities of providing grid-scale electricity that’s not only affordable but accessible around the clock.”