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What Is A Cooperative?


Different By Definition.

Since the first electric cooperatives were founded in response to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, local co-ops have been defined by those who own them—people like you, who rely on the power the co-op provides. That’s what makes a co-op completely different from an investor-owned utility, which must answer to outside stockholders interested only in profits. Your co-op is a not-for-profit, independent business accountable only to you and the other local people it serves.

Membership Is What You Make It.

Anyone who lives in a co-op’s area and will accept the responsibilities of membership is eligible to participate. Privileges include a right to vote in Board of Directors elections and on other issues. Members may attend the co-op’s annual meeting—which is another way your co-op is distinguished from an investor-owned utility. Unlike a stockholders’ meeting, the co-op’s annual meeting is really a chance for cooperative neighbors to get together with their local board and make their wishes known. Co-ops also often conduct member surveys to help keep them in touch with the community.

Your cooperative is building on the values we’ve shared from the start.

Having a voice makes co-op members more than customers. They’re an integral part of the process by which the co-op is run. By paying their electric bills, members provide the cooperative operating capital. In return, they get more than power: they also get comprehensive energy services, information programs, business reports—even a share of any margins remaining after costs are met. An electric cooperative uses the capital that comes from members to maintain and develop power facilities and services. The cooperative also uses funds for general administration, employee training, information programs, and a variety of other energy and technical services. After all expenses for operations and improvements have been satisfied, any money left over is set aside as capital credits. These credits also constitute the cooperative’s equity. When the equity level is high enough, the Board of Directors can authorize disbursement to members.

Strength In Numbers.

The combined resources and cooperation of thousands of cooperatives and millions of members across the country allow the system to operate safely and efficiently. This has been a highly successful way to supply energy services to rural and suburban residents. The challenges and the technology have changed since the early years, and so have some services your cooperative provides. But through it all, the central benefits have remained the same: at-cost energy services made available by and for the people who need them.

Staying Current.

Just as we’ve always done, electric cooperatives are finding new ways to add comfort and convenience to the lives of our members. Beyond supplying reliable power, many electric cooperatives provide other benefits, such as home surge protection, energy audits, safety and efficiency information, home improvement programs, and community services. As lifestyles, technology, and energy needs change with the times, your electric cooperative is becoming a more valuable ally than ever.

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