Collaboration was an overarching theme at the 2023 Michigan Electric Cooperative Symposium. Guest speakers offered insights into their areas of expertise, including finance, cyber security, government relations, and of course, the challenges and opportunities cooperatives continue to face. Wolverine CEO Eric Baker offered a rallying cry for continued and unabashed collaboration between all the represented groups, “When we work together, we are unstoppable.”
OVERVIEW OF SESSIONS
Marci Rossell, renowned economist, and financial analyst offered an examination of our current economic situation, noting that today’s economy is already in the past. The economy is always moving forward, as we must move forward with it. Collectively we are working hard to not only react to today’s economic landscape, but to lead the way in renewable and reliable energy.
Tony Anderson, who will retire in June as General Manager of Cherryland Electric, gave an impassioned speech on his 20+ years working for electric cooperatives. Luckily, Anderson is not leaving the game entirely, as he was just voted in as the new NRECA Board of Directors President. Anderson’s insider knowledge of Michigan’s cooperatives and strong relationships are poised to make sure our state’s interests are included in the national agenda.
We also had the good fortune to host Major General Brett Williams, retired military leader and former Director of Operations for U.S. Cyber Command. Williams offered insights from both nation-state and corporate viewpoints. Specifically, he noted that a cyber-attack breach to the energy sector has an average cost of $4.72M. That’s $1M more than other industries. Luckily, our IT departments are constantly assessing and testing our own security to avoid a cyber-attack. Let’s all stay vigilant as Grid Protectors!
Professional snowboarder and Olympic gold medalist, Nick Baumgartner, took the stage to tell his awesome story of becoming our nation’s oldest male athlete to win the gold in 2022. He reflected on his rigorous regimen that gets him ready for competition. He revealed that it may not be as glamorous as what people might think, but that having a goal and working each day toward it is the kind of success you can always be proud of.
NRECA’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Louis Finkel brought an update from Washington D.C., reminding us that while we are focused on the challenges and opportunities in our local and statewide communities, NRECA has an eye on political arena. It was a reminder that we have strong voices advocating for us in the nation’s capital.
Wolverine Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Tom King, Wolverine Chief Legal Officer, Joe Baumann, and Michigan Public Service Commission Chair, Dan Scripps offered insights into Michigan’s path to decarbonization. With bold goals for decarbonization at both state and national levels, the collaborative work between Wolverine, MISO, and regulatory groups will be important relationships to maintain and grow.
The event was wrapped up with a discussion between Wolverine CEO Eric Baker and Arkansas Electric Cooperative’s President and CEO, Buddy Hasten. Hasten discussed his co-op’s focus on a diversified portfolio of energy sources, to accommodate both customer demand and future decarbonization goals. He noted, “Diversity is good in all parts of our lives – including energy.” Baker echoed those sentiments and reminded attendees that the power of bright, and capable people who care about the cooperative’s mission is vital to our success in the future. Baker said, “Our ability to do great things is still in front of us.”