Electric cooperatives are private, not-for-profit, independent electric utilities, owned by the members they serve. Democratically governed businesses, electric cooperatives are organized under the Seven Cooperative Principles (see below), anchoring them firmly in the communities they serve; ensuring they are closely regulated by their members.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in 1935. The Executive Order establishing the REA and the passage of the REA Act a year later marked the first steps in a public-private partnership that has bridged the vast expanse of rural America to bring electric power to businesses and communities willing to organize cooperatively and accept responsibility for the provision of safe, affordable and reliable electric power.
The Seven Cooperative Principles
As drafted by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1937.
1. Open and Voluntary Membership
Cooperatives are open to all people who are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
3. Members' Economic Participation
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If a co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members while maintaining the cooperative's autonomy.
5. Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.
Today more than 900 electric cooperatives power Alaskan fishing villages, dairy farms in Vermont and the suburbs and exurbs in between. They provide reliable and technologically advanced service to 40 million Americans while maintaining a unique consumer-focused approach to business.