What is an Electric Cooperative?

The Great Effort of Bringing Power to the Countryside

The business model of electric cooperatives is unique and based on grassroots efforts. Learn more about electric cooperatives in this informative video!

Electric cooperatives are private, independent electric utilities, owned by the members they serve. Democratically governed businesses, electric cooperatives are organized under the Cooperative or Rochdale Principles, anchoring them firmly in the communities they serve and ensuring that they are closely regulated by their consumers.

Electric cooperatives were created after President Franklin D. Roosevelt established 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, over the last 80 years, 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.

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 42 million Americans while maintaining a unique consumer-focused approach to business.


Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE)  

The primary purpose of ACRE is to provide monetary support to federal and state legislative candidates who support rural electrification. ACRE is a non-partisan political action committee that represents the interests of the nation's electric cooperatives and their member-owners. ACRE members can include electric co-op directors, managers, employees, their spouses and co-op members. The issues affecting electric cooperatives today are available on the Cooperative Action Network website.


Another item of interest for people interested in cooperatives is the Rural Cooperatives magazine, which is published six times annually by USDA Rural Development. This award-winning publication carries a wide variety of articles about the nation's farm and utility cooperatives, with the goal of expanding understanding and use of the co-op business model. You can find a link to past and current magazine issues here.


7 Cooperative Principles

Voluntary and Open Membership — Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.

Democratic Member Control — Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

Members’ Economic Participation — Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative.

Autonomy and Independence — Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members.

Education, Training, and Information — Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives.

Cooperation among Cooperatives — Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together.

Concern for Community — While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities.