Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative (YVEC) had a really big year last year, having grown by 500 additional customers and adding to the utility’s infrastructure to keep ahead of such phenomenal growth. Such was the big news that crowned the annual membership meeting last week.

“The Energy to Thrive” was the theme of the 85th annual membership meeting at the Pavilion at Metra Park on March 26, which was attended by some 200-plus people.

Over the past ten years, YVEC has seen “tremendous growth,” said CEO/General manager Brandon Wittman. Revenues have increased $7 million, of which residential customers are 75 percent of sales.

But, said Wittman, “We are not about the bottom line. What makes us different is that we are focused on the members.”

Wittman mentioned frequently the company’s goal to be as efficient as possible in order to keep energy rates as low as possible for their members. The fact that they have not had to increase rates for 12 years speaks to the co-op’s success, but increasing inflation pushed them to have to raise rates 4 to 4.5 percent, last November.

But that is still less of an increase than the increase of 26.9 percent last year by their biggest competitor, pointed out Wittman. “We absorbed as much as we could for as long as we could,” he said, “We are still very competitive.”

YVEC’s last rate increase of 6 percent was in 2011.

The second largest electric cooperative in the state, YVEC now serves some 23,000 members, “and we try to be the energy solution for all of them,” said Wittman. For the past few years the co-op has averaged the addition of 350 meters /customers a year, and now they are averaging 500.

To keep ahead of that demand is the challenge before the staff and the board of directors. 

Board Secretary/Treasure, Scott Hofferber, who was unanimously re-elected to the board (trustee for district 3) during the meeting, told the membership, “You have a great board working for you.” His words were echoed by Vice President Dave Kelsey, who was also re-elected (trustee for district 6), who said, “We have an outstanding board, who has serious discussions about our power.” To keep the power going and to keep it affordable “is an ongoing battle,” he said, given the mandates and regulations that keep coming at energy providers.

Growth has required expansion and constant upkeep of the facilities. In 2023, YVEC purchased land near Park City to build a new substation to meet current and future needs. Billings and Worden substations were also upgraded to add capacity and new technology.

Additional office space was added to the operations center and additional land was purchased adjacent to the center for a new yard for storage and inventory.

“We build systems to work 30 years, not just today,” said Wittman.

With the continued growth YVEC has added new employees. For a decade the co-op averaged about 47 employees, last year they added several more to total 54 full time employees and two part-time. All of their employees were invited center stage to be introduced.

Providing their employees with the good equipment and current technology is part of the co-ops strategy to operate in the most efficient manner possible to keep costs and rates as low as possible. Wittman explained that there are 900 electric co-ops in the country and on average they serve 300 members per employee. YVEC serves 438 members per employee. “We are in the top five percent when it comes to this ratio,” he said.

YVEC invested $42.5 million into the plant over the past ten years.

Other members of the board of directors are: Larry Kaufman, President and trustee for district 4; Greg Neibauer, assistant secretary / treasurer and trustee for district 5; Bill Keller, trustee for district 1; Daniel Swartz, trustee for district 2; and Chris White, trustee for district 7.

YVEC was organized in 1937 and serves a 10,000 square mile territory including six counties. In its first year of operation it served 17 connected meters.

Total value of utility plant is $118,175,256. YVEC purchase 320,413,461 kilowatt hours of electricity in 2023.

The utility has 142,330 miles of high voltage transmission lines, and 2,678,456 mils of distribution lines.

The company paid $1,449,286 in property taxes in 2023.

2023 revenue was $39,549,604 and long term debt is $56,231,856.


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