This past year, our employees were up for the continued challenges that COVID-19 and its new strains brought. Many of our members struggled to pay their bills and at one point we had 19,195 members, with over $6 million past due. Our member services representatives did a great job working with and connecting members to available assistance dollars from the state and federal governments. Since the peak of COVID-19, our delinquent accounts have gone down substantially.
New construction and electric sales growth also continued during the pandemic. Over 2,000 new services were connected last year. Most of these were residential, but Dakota Electric also saw growth in commercial accounts, which brought new jobs to our communities. Sales growth is beneficial as it helps moderate higher fixed costs for materials, labor and taxes.
Dakota Electric’s board has a strategic initiative to return capital credit dollars to our members on a shorter year rotation. Last year alone, Dakota Electric returned $5.9 million back to members, and we have gone from a 28-year rotation to roughly a 23-year rotation — with a goal to achieve a 15-year rotation by 2025.
After four years of hard work, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Energy Conservation and Optimization (ECO) Act with 100% support from our Dakota County legislators. The new legislation will allow utilities, like Dakota Electric, to embrace beneficial and effective new technologies and evolving trends. It will also help to reduce consumers’ total energy bills and provide better tools for reducing carbon emissions. Dakota Electric will work to develop new and innovative programs and services to benefit our members, and the environment, for years to come.
Our power supplier, Great River Energy, continues to work toward selling its coal-based power plant and connected transmission line by mid-2022, and is adding an additional 400MW of wind power in North Dakota. Great River Energy plans to achieve 50% renewable production by 2030 and they remain on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 80% by 2025.
On behalf of the board and the employees at Dakota Electric Association, thank you for the privilege of serving you. We are proud of our past and look forward to our future.