Except for my military service and my college years, I have been a CKenergy Electric Cooperative member since 1974. In 2017, I also became a member of Oklahoma Electric Cooperative. I have always enjoyed good and reliable service from both cooperatives, and believe there are several reasons rural electric cooperatives stand out from other utilities.
The cooperative business model is different from an investor-owned utility (IOU). Cooperatives are owned by the members whom they serve. Instead of making a rate of return for stockholders, any profits a cooperative makes are returned to the member through reduced rates or capital credit refunds. These credits are members’ ownership share of the cooperative.
Members routinely elect board members from local membership to participate as trustees, thereby providing management experience to the cooperative. These board members meet regularly to review and approve cooperative business. Trustees live in the areas they represent. When you see them in your area, be encouraged to ask questions and learn how your cooperative operates.
Some might question whether cooperatives can restore service quickly or recover from severe storms because they are small. Through mutual aid programs, cooperatives in areas not impacted by storms send crews to help neighboring cooperatives, providing access to many more skilled employees and equipment. Cooperatives helping other cooperatives is just part of the job, ensuring that major outages can be resolved and reliable service promptly restored.
Finally, distribution cooperatives are local. Many employees often live in the cooperative’s service territory. They might be your neighbor or live just down the road or over the hill. They are easy to contact, and everyone knows where the cooperative is located and who works there. Cooperative employees are the best ambassadors.
Cooperatives’ customer service employees are waiting to answer any questions you might have about your electric service or bills. They are also willing to provide advice on electric service improvements or changes. Cooperatives provide home energy audits, and are good neighbors.
I don’t have a t-shirt or a cap that says, “I love my electric cooperative,” but I would wear them if I did.
By Gary Roulet
Board President | Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives