Rural electric cooperatives

What are rural electric cooperatives?

Many rural properties are located in rural electric cooperative territories

Rural electric cooperatives are non-profit electric utilities. Unlike the big investor-owned utilities, rural electric cooperatives (also called “electric co-ops”) are owned by member-owners, the customers for which they provide electricity. These co-ops were created in the 1930s to bring electricity to areas of rural America that investor-owned utilities refused to serve due to cost concerns. Today, electric cooperatives provide electricity to 12 percent of Americans and own 42 percent of the country’s electric distribution lines.

Because rural electric cooperatives are owned by their customers, they are supposed to be responsive to their members’ concerns. Each member-owner has one vote in board of director elections. The board governs the cooperative and hires a professional staff. It also establishes policies and procedures.

How rural electric cooperatives support energy freedom

Unfortunately, many co-op members don’t know they are owners of their electric company, or that they have a say in its governance. As a result, many rural electric co-ops are controlled by insiders who favor the status quo. Too many rural electric cooperatives still heavily rely on centrally-generated coal-fired power and have little interest in distributed renewable energy.

But, the democratic structure of electric cooperatives provides an opportunity for member-owners to upgrade their energy policies by demanding change. Many rural electric cooperative members are beginning to get involved in leading their cooperatives.

Rural electric cooperative resources

Our work with rural electric cooperatives

  • Solar United Neighbors of Virginia has worked with member-owners of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) to help them push for expanded solar options. We helped the group organize a campaign to contact SVEC leadership to advocate for increased solar electricity options for co-op members. This includes protecting net metering, creating real community solar, and installing solar on the new SVEC headquarters.

Members of the Shenandoah Valley Rural Electric Co-op meet with Co-op leadership to fight for more solar

Learn more about rural electric cooperatives in your state

Minnesota

Minnesota

Ohio

Ohio 

Virginia

Virginia

Stay informed on solar news
& action opportunities:

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Email to someone
Stay informed on solar
X
- Enter Your Location -
- or -