NRECA has honored electric cooperatives with three prestigious awards at the 2021 PowerXchange and TechAdvantage Experience. Here's a look at their accomplishments:

Electric Cooperative Purpose Award

MiEnergy Cooperative won this top honor, which recognizes co-ops for meaningful contributions to the community and for exemplifying the cooperative purpose. CEO Brian Krambeer accepted the award on behalf of the Rushford, Minnesota-based co-op.

MiEnergy’s innovative partnerships have boosted the quality of life of its members. In 2018, it partnered with two local telephone co-ops to form MiBroadband to bring high-speed internet service to its communities. MiEnergy also partnered with NRECA and the Iowa Economic Development Association to bring battery storage systems into members’ homes.

“MiEnergy has distinguished itself as a progressive electric cooperative that is always looking for new opportunities to control costs, enhance service and exceed member expectations,” said NRECA President Curtis Wynn. “Its continued success in improving the lives of people in its community is why MiEnergy is so deserving of this award.”

Krambeer said the co-op team “is humbled to be recognized for this distinguished award.”

“I’m also very proud of our employees and board of directors in what we have been able to accomplish on behalf of our membership with the creation of MiEnergy Cooperative,” he said.

Paul Revere Award

Dave Schneider, general manager and CEO of Midstate Electric Cooperative in La Pine, Oregon, won this award for creating a prepay billing system for co-op consumer-members and then mobilizing them by the hundreds to fend off a 2015 proposal by the Oregon Legislature that would have ended the popular program.

The prepay system was created to help struggling Midstate members pay their bills during tough times. It allows members to pay for electricity before they use it. Members decide how much money to put into their accounts and they can track and monitor their energy use. The program has reduced by nearly half the member debt that the co-op writes off as uncollectible.

“Under the leadership of General Manager David Schneider, MEC has established a culture in which member empowerment is the real measure of success for the co-op,” Wynn said. “MEC turned traditional utility monthly billing on its head, allowing members to pay for electricity before they use it. MEC now has one of the highest per capita uses of prepay billing in the utility sector, with over 1,500 members and growing.”

Schneider credited his employees for the award, which is given for outstanding achievement in mobilizing grassroots advocacy among co-op members on an issue of state or national importance.

“Midstate is deeply honored to be receiving the Paul Revere Award,” he said. “This award is a testament to the dedication of our employees in serving our community. I am very proud of our hardworking employees.”

George W. Haggard Memorial Journalism Award

Carolina Country, the statewide magazine of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, was honored as the co-op publication that demonstrates the most forthright, concise and balanced presentation of ideas advancing electric co-ops and their consumer-members.

“This had a perfect balance of general interest content, community content and electric co-op/energy industry-focused content,” wrote one judge. “At times, I would forget it was a co-op publication and it was simply entertaining and engaging.”

Editor Scott Gates and Warren Kessler, director of publications for both the statewide association and the magazine, accepted the award.

“North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have such a great story to tell,” Kessler said. “For one, they are currently working together on sustainability, reliability and community-oriented initiatives, focused on a brighter future for their members. Recognition received through the Haggard Award is something we share with co-ops across the state, who we work with closely each month in amplifying their local messages.”

Gates said the magazine staff is especially honored to receive the award amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “when setting the right tone in a publication like Carolina Country can be challenging.”

“Staying true to our mission—fostering connections between members and their electric co-ops—has served us well to that end,” he said.

Gates is the second member of his family to receive the honor. His father, Darryl Gates, was editor of Alabama Living magazine at the Alabama Rural Electric Association for nearly 30 years. The senior Gates and his team received the Haggard Award in 2004.

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