We take time to recognize National Co-op Month every October as a way to honor the trailblazers of the past and the visionaries of the future.
The first co-op members in Oklahoma’s rural communities believed they could solve the problems that kept the power companies from connecting them to modern society. They called their friends and neighbors together and started forming their own utilities. They were community-based organizations, democratically-run, not-for-profit businesses called cooperatives. Today, there are more than 900 electric co-ops in the U.S.
As a result of the member-owned cooperative form of business, co-ops stand out in many areas of the electric utility industry. They lead the way in community solar — an initiative in which the co-op utility builds a solar array that is supported by interested co-op members buying shares of the project. Electric vehicles are getting a boost from co-ops as well, with many placing charging stations in public parks and other rural locations. And just as co-ops first brought electricity to unserved rural areas nearly a century ago, today many of them are working to bring high-speed internet service to their local communities.
But the biggest innovation is simply the co-op itself, and the notion of a utility with only one mission — to make life better for its members, who are also its customers.
For electric co-ops, one size does not fit all and the local community is in charge. In recognizing that every one of us is different, co-ops make not only an electric connection, but also a human connection.
Board President | Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives