The Cooperative Difference
Electric co-ops are owned by those they serve. That’s why those who receive electric service from us are called members, not customers. Without members, there would be no Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation.
Members maintain democratic control of our co-op, which means they elect fellow members to represent them on the board of directors/trustees every October at our annual meeting. As a bonus, co-op members receive special benefits through programs like our Energy Star® Rebate Program, Weatherization Loan Program and Energy Audit Program. We also return margins (“ profits”) to our members in the form of capital credits.
One principle that sets us apart from other businesses is our concern for community. As a cooperative, we have a special responsibility to support the areas in which our members live and work. From sponsoring a local school’s baseball team to supporting new jobs and industry through our economic development efforts, we stand as a driving force in our community
Of course, co-ops span all industries, including credit unions, dairy operations, health care, housing, and much more. There are more than 29,000 co-ops across the nation. And not all are small or rural. Just look at nationally known co-ops like Sunkist, Ace Hardware, and Land O’ Lakes.
Overall, co-ops are more accessible than other types of businesses. We give our members a voice, and we are local—living and working alongside those we serve.
That’s the cooperative difference!
Electric Cooperatives Are…
- Private independent electric utility businesses
- Incorporated under the laws of the states in which they operate
- Established to provided at-cost electric service
- Owned by the members they serve
- Governed by a board of directors elected from the membership, which sets policies and procedures that are implemented by the cooperatives’ professional staff
- Most electric co-ops are distribution cooperatives that deliver electricity to the members. Some are generation and transmission cooperatives (G&T's) that both generate and transmit electricity to meet the power needs of distribution cooperatives.
- In addition to electric service, many electric co-ops are involved in community development and revitalization projects, e.g., small business development and job creation, improvement of water and sewer systems, and assistance in delivery of health care and educational services.
What Makes Cooperatives Different?
- Cooperatives are operated to provide at-cost electric service to their members as compared to investor-owned utilities, which are operated to maximize profit for the shareholders.
- A co-op’s net margin above expenses and reserves does not belong to the utility; it belongs to the individual members of the co-op. The margins must either be used to improve or maintain operations or be distributed to the co-op’s member-owners.