With a proud legacy tracing back to the New Deal, rural electric cooperatives (co-ops) are meant to be truly democratic institutions where customers have a meaningful voice in co-op governance. Unlike investor-owned utilities, co-ops allow their customers—or member-owners—to participate in policy and business decisions affecting their electric rates and quality of service. Unfortunately, the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) has instituted a number of undemocratic practices that block informed member participation. As a result, REC’s Board of Directors and management are making important financial and policy decisions without adequate oversight and input from properly informed co-op members.
The REC policies that need to be reformed fall into three categories:
Access to Basic Information
REC does not allow co-op members to observe board meetings, where key decisions on important matters such as electric rates and co-op finances are made. Nor does it make its meetings available online, publish detailed meeting minutes, or even provide easily-accessible contact information for board members. REC requires members requesting such information to agree to potential legal fees before providing access. Instead of discouraging member inquiries with thinly veiled legal threats, REC should make it easy and convenient for members to find out what their board is discussing and how decisions are made.
REC does not provide transparent, detailed financial information to allow members to evaluate a wide range of REC financial decisions—including capital-credit reimbursement to members, board pay, and increasing customer fees, such as the recent 40% increase in fixed monthly charges.
Under current REC policies, it is nearly impossible to determine whether REC board members are informed and engaged. The lack of transparency also makes it impossible for members to cast informed votes for board candidates. Even worse, the board uses REC funds to encourage co-op members to cast blank “proxy ballots,” ceding power to the board to control election outcomes. And recent REC bylaw changes make it even more difficult for members to control our co-op by proposing amendments.
To address these serious problems, concerned REC members have formed a grassroots coalition called Repower REC. Because of our strong commitment to energy democracy and to our solar co-op members in the REC territory, Solar United Neighbors of Virginia is supporting Repower REC’s effort to put reform language on the ballot for the next REC election. To do that, we need to collect hundreds of signatures. We need your help by:
- Signing up to join the Repower REC campaign so that you can receive updates on our progress and learn more about how to get involved;
- Reading Repower REC’s proposed bylaw amendments and learning more about the campaign at RepowerREC.com and on Facebook; and
- Sharing this campaign with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers in the REC region.
If you believe that you should have a greater voice in your co-op, please join us. It’s time to reform REC to put member-owners back in control.