What are Electric Cooperatives?
Electric Cooperatives are private, non-profit corporations owned by their consumer-members. They are similar in concept to other consumer-owned businesses such as farm produce marketing co-ops and news-gathering and reporting co-ops, like the Associated Press. All Cooperatives were formed out of what is known as the “Rochdale Principles,” so-named because of a system designed by a group of 28 weavers in Rochdale, England, to market their products.
Essentially, each consumer of the Cooperative is a member, with one vote in the affairs of the Cooperative.
Bylaws, adopted by the members, set forth their rights and responsibilities and lay out the guidelines that assure a democratic organization.
Members elect directors to serve on a Board of Trustees, and an annual meeting is held to conduct the business of the Cooperative. The local board employs a professional manager for the co-op, and the manager then has the duty of hiring trained personnel to perform the work necessary for the co-op to function.
The local Cooperative Board establishes rates, based upon what it actually costs to provide dependable electric service and to meet payment schedules on loans. Rates are designed so that revenues exceed expenses. This “margin” is allocated back to members of the Cooperative in the form of capital credits. Members receive money back based on the amount of electricity they have used during the allocation period. This return of capital maintains the non-profit status of the Cooperative.