Questions and Answers About Electric Cooperative Public Benefits
Prepared by the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association and the Municipal Electric Utilities of Wisconsin.
Q. What is an electric cooperative?
A. An electric cooperative is a consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric power provider. Each ratepayer/member gets one vote and has an equal ownership interest in the cooperative with all other members.
Q. Why were electric cooperatives formed?
A. In the 1920s and 1930s, large power companies refused to extend service to farmers and rural areas. In order to extend power to rural America, Congress and the President passed and signed the Rural Electrification Act in 1936.
This act authorized locally-owned cooperatives to borrow money from the federal government to provide electric service to themselves at cost.
Q. How many electric cooperatives are there in Wisconsin?
A. Wisconsin’s 24 electric distribution cooperatives serve more than 263,500 farms, residences, and businesses in the state. Wisconsin is also home to Dairyland Power Cooperative (DPC). DPC is a generation and transmission cooperative that provides power to 25 electric distribution cooperatives and 17 minicipal utilities in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. Nearly one out of every 10 electric consumers in Wisconsin is an electric cooperative member. Nationally, 930 electric cooperatives serve nearly 42 million people.
Q. How is the cooperative governed?
A. Each year the members of the cooperative elect directors to serve on the board of directors. The board of directors oversees the operation of the cooperative and hires a general manager/CEO to run the day-to-day operations.
Q. How are electric cooperatives regulated?
A. Electric cooperatives are regulated by their locally elected board of directors, subject to federal Rural Utility Service regulations, if applicable, and to all applicable state and federal laws, regulations, and codes.
Q. Who can run for director?
A. Any member in good standing can run for the cooperative’s board of directors. Please consult the by-laws of your particular cooperative for details.
Q. If I have a complaint, question, or suggestion for the cooperative, what do I do?
A. First, call the member services representative at your cooperative headquarters. Most questions or complaints can be resolved by talking with your member services representative or by discussing the issue with the manager/CEO.
If your question or complaint is not resolved by the staff of the cooperative, you may call a member of the board of directors.
Also at each annual meeting of every electric cooperative, there is a time set aside for questions, comments, or suggestions. Some cooperatives use a “question box” for people who wish to remain anonymous, or they may have an “open mike” period for questions and comments.
The important thing to remember is that the cooperative is governed by you and your elected representatives on the board of directors.
Q. What are cooperatives doing to promote energy conservation and renewable energy?
A. Electric cooperatives operate some of the most successful and effective load management programs in the state. This delays the need for expensive new power plants, keeping costs down for members.
In addition, many cooperatives are building wind generation, anaerobic digesters, landfill methane gas generators and use clean, renewable hydro-power, solar arrays. Collectively, electric cooperatives produce more solar power than any other state utility.
All of Wisconsin electric cooperatives exceed the states renewable portfolio standard law which specifies minimum amounts of renewable power utilities and co-ops must supply.
Q. What else do electric cooperatives do?
A. Wisconsin electric cooperatives donate to hundreds of local events, charities, and community projects. They provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to young people in rural Wisconsin and to youth activities and education.
In addition, electric cooperatives aggressively work to expand and attract businesses to the areas they serve, increasing employment and the tax base, which helps everyone in the community. Electric cooperatives lend millions of dollars to help expand local businesses and to attract new ones.