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Nicole Kivisto

BUSINESS INSIDER: MDU president, CEO started as a financial analyst

Nicole Kivisto


Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.,

Great Plains Natural Gas Co.,

Intermountain Gas Co.,

Cascade Natural Gas Corp.


Q. What led you to your current position as president and CEO of so many companies, and how are they all related?

A. I have worked for the corporation for 22 years, joining the company as a financial analyst. I worked for our parent company, MDU Resources, for 18 years in various financial capacities with my last position being the vice president, controller and chief accounting officer. I had the opportunity to become the vice president of operations for Montana-Dakota Utilities and Great Plains in January 2014 and assumed my current role in January of 2015. Our corporation operates under two pillars, regulated energy delivery and construction. I have the privilege of leading our regulated utility companies. Our utility operates under four brands, serving over 1 million customers in eight states.

Q. With an accounting background, did you expect to eventually lead energy companies?

A. When I embarked on my career, I certainly did not envision the path that brought me here. Similarly, when my husband and I decided to start a family, we didn’t envision having four children, including a set of triplets. Life isn’t always how we predict it. How we respond to it and whom we surround ourselves with can make a big difference. I have been blessed with a great team at work and a great network of friends and family at home.

Q. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

A. I would say my biggest challenges have taken place over the past three years. Transitioning from a financial role to an operational role was a big leap and then from my operational role to my current role. I had a lot to learn in a pretty short period of time. I have a natural curiosity and have always been known for asking a lot of questions, but perhaps over the past three years my coworkers would say that my constant questions were taken to another level. I have certainly learned a lot from our talented group of over 1,600 employees across eight states.

Q. How are MDU and its affiliates making use of renewable energy, and could that portfolio grow in the future?

A. Montana-Dakota Utilities determines its next generation options through its Integrated Resource Plan, which looks at, and models, all available options. The ultimate goal is to provide our customers safe and reliable service at the lowest cost possible. We believe in an all of the above energy policy, which is reflected in our generation portfolio. Company-owned capacity currently stands at 52 percent coal, 26 percent natural gas and 22 percent renewables. With our recently announced plan to add up to 50 megawatts at Thunder Spirit Wind (near Hettinger, North Dakota), our renewables have the potential to grow to 27 percent.

Q. What predictions can you share on the state of the energy industry in North Dakota?

A. Recognizing the importance of energy development and delivery to North Dakota’s economy, there has been a deliberate effort made by North Dakota’s decision-makers over the past decade to develop and shape an energy policy and strategy for the state. That has been the purpose and goal of Empower North Dakota, led by our governors with the input and guidance of North Dakota’s energy industry leaders. Since its inception, MDU has had a seat at the Empower table and we look forward to continue being actively involved in Empower along with any other initiatives to study North Dakota’s energy system, including the future of cleaner, and commercially viable, forms of coal conversion technologies and natural gas as a baseload fuel source in North Dakota.