Whilst researching into alternative energies, I came across some information about the growing number of cooperatives that are in existence all over the country, and not just here in the United States, but all over the world.
For some time now, most of us have been tightening our financial belts, scrutinizing our bills and service of the utility or service providers. Almost daily in the national press, the profits of the large corporations are fueling anger, dismay and disbelief. The focus seems to have changed from high local service levels to rationalizing of services and increasing the return to investors.
Over the years, increased prices, lower service levels and the feeling of not being anything more than an account number has led groups of individuals and businesses to join together to find a solution and form cooperatives or associations to take over the supply of the service to their district.
A brief history and the principles of a cooperative.
The cooperative movement began in Europe, growing primarily Britain and France, in the 19th century. The first recorded cooperative in Europe though was the Fenwick Weavers Society, Scotland in 1769. By the 1830’s there were hundreds that had been formed during the industrial revolution.
In the United States, the first electric coop was formed in July 1941, the Delaware County Electric Association and in April 1942 the Rural Electric Cooperative Law was passed. Today, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has more than 900 not-for-profit cooperatives in their membership and they are a big advocate of renewable and sustainable energy, the website is well worth a visit.
The Advantages of joining a Cooperative
- Can use the larger volume of electric supply to obtain discounts for members.
- All non profit cooperatives receive tax exempt status.
- All electric utilities can receive some form of federal funding.
- Independence and member control.
The Disadvantages of joining a Cooperative
- If members don’t participate and assist in some way in the running of the cooperative, the purpose of the cooperative is lost.
- If service contracts are not properly in place, repairs to infrastructure can be expensive to members. Especially so in rural communities, where there is likely to be miles more cable.
So whether starting up a new cooperative or joining an existing one, there can be substantial savings made in a well run cooperative. Many existing members comment, on the various websites, that they feel much happier in having more control and all the monetary benefits are passed back to them. Now this will not be for everyone, other commitments and frequently traveling away from home are just two possible reasons that a person cannot be an active participant.